Review: Ignition Festival - Choreographers’ Showcase - Rose Theatre

Performance: 3 June 2015
Reviewed by Philippa Newis - Friday 5 June 2015

Iginition Festival 2015 - Anotine Marc's 'EssE - adreline'. Photo: Gigi Giannella

Daniela Cardim Fonteyne Wundarra | Antoine Marc EssE – adreline | John Ross Hope| Neus Gil Cortés Is This Art? | Patricia Okenwa II.Void | Kate Zamira Mummery Mentally Zero | Johnny Autin A Positive Life | Alexander Whitley The Murmuring

Wundarra choreographed by Daniela Cardim Fonteyne is the perfect apéritif to wet our appetite for an evening of contemporary dance at Kingston’s Rose Theatre in this new festival, supported by the local borough council and Dance West, newly formed to promote dance in west London. Chanetelle Gotobed and Matthieu Quincy sparkle in a flirtatious and feisty pas-de- deux. Fonteyne’s choreography is a playful attempt to contrast ballet’s gravity-defying grace with the earthy tones of aboriginal music. Crisp classical lines pierce the guttural sounds of a didgeridoo, but the juxtaposition feels superficial. It doesn’t quite hit its mark, albeit Gotobed and Quincy fizz with enthusiasm and successfully capture the affections of a warm audience.

Whilst Wundarra bubbles with the possibility of romance, choreographer Patricia Okenwa explores the quiet despair of a disintegrating love affair in II.Void. Dancers Estela Merlos and Stefano Rosato hold each other at arm’s length. Rosato strokes his head along her arm, but Merlos evaporates at his touch. Rosato trances the circumference of her absence, a space he now has to fill without her. As their duet ebbs and flows, they attempt to re-connect with a happier past but are confronted by the creeping loneliness of a passion gone cold. Their movements have silky, elastic quality; rippling with tenderness but with an undercurrent of ferocity that is always held in check. The chemistry between Merlos and Rosato is a gossamer thread, binding them together for the duration of the work. This is a mature and loquacious partnership; able to articulate a depth of tenderness and sorrow without recourse to melodrama. Beautifully crafted and eloquently danced, II.Void was one of the gems of the evening’s programming.

Is This Art? choreographed by Neus Gil Cortés takes a sideways look at the public’s perception of modern art. Luke Divall – sporting a marvellous beard – is stranded centre stage struggling to articulate an opinion. Colas Lucot and Rachele Rapisardi echo his floundering attempts with stuttering torsos and flaying gestures. Divall offers a spluttered confession of “self indulgent”, which triggers an audio recording of people expressing their views on “new art”. Rapisardi in a yellow playsuit tiptoes precariously on Pringle cases and Lucot wearing little more than his modesty dances solemnly with a banana. Cortés uses a healthy dose of humour to ruffle our pretentious feathers and provoke an honest conversation about the relevance of modern art.

A rich seam of social commentary runs through this evening’s programme. Johnny Autin combines elements of theatre and dance to tell the stories of people living with HIV. In A Positive Life, Autin points a finger at the stigma that stubbornly clings to this disease, but it’s the tenacious hope of HIV survivors that has a lasting resonance. Kate Zamira Mummery’s Mentally Zero draws on her personal experience of dyslexia. Her quartet of dancers battle with linguistic demons, traversing the everyday struggle to communicate and be heard. Mummery strikes an equilibrium between words and movement. Her choreography is a physical imprint of an invisible disability. It reveals the depth of frustration and sense of entrapment that we couldn’t grasp with words alone.

In contrast Antoine Marc’s EssE is danced in silence. Marc examines the cultural tensions between individuality and globalisation. Cocooned in their own micro worlds, the dancers emerge – each characterised by a unique physical language. Gradually, their movements converge and they find a mutual rhythm and pace. The silence intensifies the experience, their collective breath sharpens the arc of the choreography. EssE has echoes of Babel, exploring our need for cohesion and our instinct for uniqueness.

John Ross explores a different type of encounter in his solo Hope. Inspired by Polanski’s film The Pianist, Ross depicts the meeting of two men whose friendship is tarnished by conflict. Ross is buffeted through the space by sounds of air rails and gun fire. Compelled to play the piano after a chance encounter with a former friend, Ross embodies Chopin’s Nocturne in C Sharp Minor. He becomes the landscape for the melody, tracing its rise and fall across his body and soaring with its crescendos. Ross seems to barely touch the floor, he moves with a languid fluidity that fills the music and space. He is utterly absorbing to watch.

BalletBoyz close the evening with an excerpt from The Murmuring by Alexander Whitley. Tumbling onto the stage, this all-male ensemble moves like a well-oiled machine. The choreography appears seamless, dancers melt into duets and trios, merging their bodies like mythical shape shifters. Watching the BalletBoyz is like running silk through your fingers – rich and voluminous; light to the touch and fleeting. They leave us tantalised and wanting more, which is exactly as it should be.

Ignition Dance Festival is shaping up to be a much-needed platform for innovative dance and emerging choreographers. In partnership with Dance West, it has the potential to offer a new hub for contemporary dance in West London.

Ignition Festival continues until Sunday 7 June
Ignition Dance Festival is commissioned by Kingston Council and co-produced with Dance West a new Dance Development hub for West London based at the Lyric Theatre Hammersmith, founded by choreographer Rosie Whitney-Fish.

Philippa Newis took part in this year’s Resolution! Review, the programme in which emerging and professional writers together review every work in The Place’s annual platform for new choreography. Find her on Twitter: @PhilippaNewis

Photos: Gigi Giannella

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