Review: GOlive -at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre

Performance: 9 September 2013
Reviewed by Laura Dodge - Friday 13 September 2013

Darren Ellis Dance - Joanna Wenger in 'Long Walk Home'

Performance: Monday 9 September

Curated by Donald Hutera and taking place in a small 50-seat pub theatre in North London, GOlive is a relaxed and intimate affair. Whether you call it go-live or g-olive, it’s the chance to see a range of established and emerging artists up close; in fact close enough, that at times it’s hard to resist the temptation to jump up and join in.

Fortunately, the festival’s opening night included exactly that opportunity for the audience. In Jamie Wood’s aptly titled You Dancing?, the creator spoke affectionately to the assembled observers, through a microphone intended to make his voice “sound mysterious”. He told stories of being on a beach and in a hospital waiting room, with segments of popular music and invitations for the audience to get up and dance in between. “You can do nothing wrong, except step on the dance floor in your outside shoes.”

Strangely enough, people assembled onstage and boogied to the beats. I even found myself compelled to leap up, remove my heels and wiggle my hips, which was wonderfully exhilarating. Whether Wood’s idea was lazy or ingenious I’m yet to work out, but I certainly enjoyed having the chance to ‘strut my stuff’.

The four other works in the evening’s bill were relatively conventional. Most impressive was Ella Mesma’s self-performed solo EvoL. In a square pool of light, a female seemed to be fascinated by her own body, squeezing her flesh and provocatively reaching down a bare leg. Then, with one hand holding firmly around her neck, she vocalised “yes” repeatedly, beginning seductively and quietly, and ending with a loud, almost-screeching sound.

The dancer proceeded to aggressively cover her mouth and pull her hair with one hand, whilst the other hand attempted to remove the violent limb. With her two arms battling for bodily control, I wondered if Mesma was expressing the conflicting feelings associated with self-harm, of both wanting to hurt oneself and also at the same time, to care and protect.

Reading the programme notes, it became clear that the choreographer intended to explore the notion of ‘grey rape’, or the idea that sexual assault can be accidental. Whether her movements displayed this or not didn’t matter, because what was conveyed was an interesting exploration of physicality, confusion and trying to find comfort in uncomfortable positions. Another piece by Mesma interestingly combined samba dancing with beat-boxing.

Darren Ellis Dance’s Long Walk Home involved dancer Joanna Wenger manipulating a balloon to folk music by the Askew Sisters. The evening’s final work, The Skin Walkers by Renaud Wiser, featured varied styles of contemporary dance but didn’t really grab my attention.

Hutera only began putting the GOlive festival together in May. He says he feels “a little bit nuts” to have attempted it, but what has been achieved is truly deserving of praise. More than 50 artists and companies are being showcased over 21 days and Kentish Town is being placed firmly onto the London dance map.

GOlive is at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre nightly until Sunday 29 September

Laura Dodge writes for a number of publications including Dancing Times, and English National Ballet’s Dance is the Word blog.

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