Review: Mickael Marso Riviere - Matches / Halfway to the Other Side - The Place

Performance: 4 June 2014
Reviewed by Samantha Whitaker - Thursday 5 June 2014

Photo: Mickael ‘Marso’ Riviere

Darkness heightens the senses, and this is key to the first of French born, UK based choreographer and performer Mickael Marso Riviere’s new duets. In Matches, the first of a double bill, sense of sight, sound and smell are immediately engaged as lit matches are tossed, glowing, onto the empty stage. It’s slightly unnerving (I subconsciously seek out the fire exit), but the darkness and lingering dry ice, the scent of burning and Miguel Marin Pavon’s haunting score come together effectively to create a scene of post-devastation. It’s as if a bomb has just gone off and we’re all witnessing the eerie aftermath. Fittingly clad in a white paper forensic boilersuit, Riviere’s partner and co-collaborator Guy Nadar begins a floor-based solo, popping, locking, twisting and writhing away from Riviere and his torch beam, which follows Nadar around the stage. Then, under the dim industrial work lights that hang from the ceiling, the pair dance together to a soundtrack of construction sounds, sometimes together, sometimes in canon and sometimes apart. Their movement vocabulary is hip hop, but not as we know it. Popping, windmilling, freezing, rolling, scuttling on all-fours: these classic b-boy moves are slowed right down, deconstructed and combined with other movement languages such as contemporary, capoeira and martial arts to create a fresh and eclectic style.

Already indistinguishable in their white suits, they momentarily become one in a slow phrase of connected lifts, which leads into another solo, this time with Riviere taking the torch spotlight. Never losing contact with the back of the stage, he executes a series of expertly controlled balances, headstands and handstands, looking as though he might start scaling the wall Spiderman-style at any moment. Nadar, whom we can thank for the inventive and atmospheric light installations, moves centre stage and by spinning his torch on a hook creates a strobe in which Riviere performs another windmilling solo. The piece ends with lit matches again, which light up their faces as they peer each other and the audience as if seeing for the first time, regenerated from the ashes.

The second duet, with Salah El Brogy, has a different feel. The starting point for their collaboration was Samuel Beckett’s absurdist play Waiting for Godot. However, by the time we get to Halfway to the Other Side, the narrative is all but forgotten and what’s left is the simple theme of two characters embarking on a spiritual journey. The scene is Middle Eastern – a desert perhaps – and to a spoken recording repeatedly counting from one to eight in Arabic, Brogy and Riviere begin their mission slowly. Arms outstretched behind like wings, they struggle to rise very far off the ground as if the force of gravity is too much to resist. When they do manage to get up and on to a diagonal path, they move back and forth trying out different methods of travel, but constantly windmill and spiral back to where they came from. This reflects the human tendency to repeat, replicate and endlessly circle through life – another theme borrowed from Godot. The pace is slow and considered, with just occasional snatches of panicked, combustive activity that often end with a crash back down to the floor. Their dexterity, agility and balance is impressive, with power and freeze moves, spins and jumps seamlessly inserted into contemporary dance sequences that are heavy and close to the ground, a level where they both feel most comfortable.

At one point, they appear to reach a destination, staring into the distance. But still they seem unwilling or incapable of moving forward. They try going solo, demonstrating their distinct and unique movement styles: Brogy anguished, his body racked by contortions, slapping the floor and diving backwards; Riviere contracting, sliding and spiralling dramatically to the floor. But eventually, it seems they find a way to align their energies to move forward together in a high-energy, exquisitely synced duet.

So, two collaborations and two very different duets, but with one important thing in common: together these artists are breaking boundaries, deconstructing hip hop movement and forging a new path for urban dance.

Mickael Marso Riviere was performing in the Springloaded season at The Place which runs until 14 June.

Samantha Whitaker is an editor and freelance writer. Find her on Twitter @swhit1985

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