Review: Hagit Yakira Dance - the middle with you - Laban Theatre

Performance: 21 November 2013
Reviewed by Graham Watts - Tuesday 3 December 2013

Hagit Yakira Dance -  ' the middle with you'

Performance: 21 November

It is more than four years since Hagit Yakira and Takeshi Matsumoto warmed me up on one cold February evening dancing Oh Baby at Resolution! I must have seen around a thousand other shows since that night, but nonetheless I well remember the wit, invention and maturity of that intriguing duet. This had not been my first exposure to Yakira’s work, which stretches a few years’ further back to a disused church in Edinburgh and, as I recall, a portable CD player sending out the sounds of Judy Garland and Eva Cassidy consecutively singing Somewhere Over the Rainbow to accompany Somewhere Between a Self and An Other , Yakira’s duet with Yarit Dor. Seeing this again at the Elephant Theatre in Camberwell, a few months later, I wrote rather generically that Yakira “has something interesting to say in her expressive use of movement and space”. Other works I can recall have been the enthusiastic energy of Sunday Morning (seen at both Jackson’s Lane and The Place) and 2B , both of which involved Yakira and Matsumoto as dancers.

Dipping in and out of Yakira’s repertoire over these years feels much like seeing one continuum of ideas from which …in the middle with you has emerged as the latest leg in a long journey of exploration about what lies between a self and others. Her movement language has progressively evolved and expanded, not simply explained by a larger retinue (this new piece employs five dancers) or in terms of exhaustively tracing points in the kinesphere. Her choreography is lined throughout with a warmth and intimacy that radiates into the audience, drawing us into these engaging dancers’ eclectic episodes of activity.

The struggle of competition emerges as a playful game gets serious, evolving into a variant of Twister crossed with musical chairs that involves performers undressing and casting items of clothing across the stage to provide the safe haven of stepping stones. Balance and disorientation are key themes, beginning with an opening solo that has Matsumoto rotate in ever decreasing circles that move from the vertical to the horizontal. Another memorable sequence has the ensemble float to one side of the stage and then spin back to the other like waves being slopped from side-to-side as if the whole proscenium has become a giant executive toy being tilted by an unseen hand. The group of five also create structures out of their own bodies, linked together, lifting one dancer overhead. Actions envelope playful elements such as head rolls, hand-stands, body sliding and cartwheels.

Mariana Camiloti delivers an absorbing floppy, yet strong, floor-based solo, a continual round of collapsing, rolling, twisting and standing only to lose balance again. She seems too fragile to remain upright and yet there is also this inherent core stability of dynamic power. Easily the smallest of the performers in stature, Camiloti is definitely in charge, running alongside the other quartet as a drill sergeant might supervise her squad’s manoeuvres and delivering audible spoken alerts, as if she is the dance captain. As in Yakira’s earlier works, spoken text is a significant ingredient of the performance, alongside a bespoke musical composition by David Leahy.

There are several swirling lifts in which dancers are rolled effortlessly around, thrown, dropped and caught, necessitating huge trust between partners. Some of the Laban students around me at this premiere gasped as Camiloti made a concussion-defying, head-first descent. Ben McEwan and recent Trinty Laban graduate, Kiraly Saint Claire, in particular, demonstrated a marathon of strength and endurance over the 50 minute performance. Sophie Arstall (yet another Trinity Laban alumnus) appeared to be a calming central influence throughout the piece.

There was a significant section towards the conclusion where the over-riding imagery was of the dancers “swimming” downstage in a never-ending variety of floor-based movement, standing to walk back upstage and repeat the journey in a different way. This and the “stepping-stone” game emphasised the dancers’ individuality and yet there were many other sequences in which the inscrutable harmonies of their group movement had been profound.

I have hesitated to use the word improvisation because …in the middle with you has clearly been honed to such fine detail that the improvisation in its creation has now evolved into a permanent structure within which only matters of detail are likely to change from performance to performance. It is a sophisticated, fluid and coherent work that through exciting teamwork and meaningful interactions illustrates that being in the middle with Hagit Yakira is anything but boring. This was a delightful, moving experience performed by a fistful of charismatic, empathetic performers led by the arresting presence of Camiloti, who – to my mind – is one of the most naturally gifted and authoritative dancers around today.

There will be another chance to see …in the middle with you at Laban Theatre on 23 January 2014 and as part of British Dance Edition, the showcase of the best of British dance for the UK and international dance industry – taking place next year in Scotland (30 Jan – 2 F.eb 2014)

Graham Watts writes for, Dance Tabs, Dancing Times and other magazines and websites in Europe, Japan and the USA. He is Chairman of the Dance Section of the Critics’ Circle in the UK.

Your Comments

  1. Lara Hayward 15 January 2014

    Also saw this in November and loved it! Would urge people to check it out at Laban or BDE before it closes. Here's my review submitted last year for another publication:

    Hagit Yakira’s ‘…in the middle with you…’ is an honest, moving piece that invites the audience to consider elements of their own lives as they play out in the dance on stage.

    Takushi Masimoto walks on in an arc, then spirals around his own axis to the floor. Lying sideways on the ground, his feet continue to spin as four others join him, treading their own cyclical paths, all running in circles to nowhere.

    Later, using every inch of their bodies, the five ‘swim’ downstage, committed to reaching the edge before getting up and starting all over again. The repetitiveness of the sequence is exhausting and that is entirely the point. The dancers know they have to keep going, even though they may not know what they are striving for.

    As in life, humour and discomfort punctuate the routine. Each dancer shares an intimate verbal snapshot. They play a giant game of Twister using discarded clothes as stepping-stones, ‘planking’ to ensure they stay in. The audience begins to sense who these dancers are – we are invited into their fold, their ‘middle’.

    Marianna Camiloti’s solo is particularly breathtaking. Tiny yet strong, she spins incessantly, increasingly out of control, like a doll trapped in a typhoon. Resting only when she is caught and cradled by another dancer, it is a humble gesture of support in a whirlwind spell.

    Momentum continues throughout the playful finale. One after the other, the dancers throw themselves into the unknown, safe only in the trust that they will be caught by the group.

    By choreographing a piece that the audience wants to be part of, Yakira has shown that the monotony of life is not so bad when you have others to share it with.


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