Review: Melanie Clarke and Guests in Mixed Bill at Laban

Performance: 6 Nov 08
Reviewed by Katie Fish - Monday 10 November 2008

The Wayside, choreographed and performed by Laila Diallo, opens with the dancer appearing lost and forlorn, her petite frame somewhat emphasised by the dimness and emptiness of the surrounding space. Wearing a brown raincoat that is both constricting and sheltering, she rolls around and cradles her knees close to her but there is a restlessness about her that prevents her from remaining long in any one pose. Moments of stillness in which she gazes childlike at the apparently unfamiliar territory, are suddenly broken with movements that seem to spring from unconsciousness. Occasionally her body quakes as if it were under attack from some invisible pursuer, stealing upon her like grief. At times she observes the movements of her hands and arms with intrigue as if they were not quite her own. Her eyes are unable to keep pace with her finger as it traces a hurried path around her body and then out into the space, propelling her forwards.

The melodic tones of Lhasa de Sela envelop the space as Diallo, arms clasping an imaginary body, dances her solitary waltz. The simple but moving sixteen minute work ends with Diallo departing slowly offstage, leaving behind her an aura of unresolved loss and anguish, her presence made more palpable by its absence.

*Too…, by *Melanie Clarke, is a sharp and concise work that explores how simplicity and limitation can generate unforeseen opportunity and freedom. Shifting resolutely back and forth, the four dancers seem to embody the pulsating, driving energy of Angie Atmadjaja’s score. The occasional ruptures in the music are paralleled by a brief change in choreography with the dancers’ arms circling, sweeping or cutting through the space before the shifting sequence is again resumed. Each dancer is precise in the timing of her actions, moving automatically and with reserve. Movements are repeated, mirrored and danced in canon but there is enough dynamic variation to prevent the work becoming monotonous. The audience is kept engaged in watching for each new change, be it a shift in focus, a lifted foot or a small forwards bend. Each dancer represents a similar, yet unique unit within a whole, assuming conformity but occasionally demonstrating a sense of individuality, and thus Too… can be seen as symbolic of our society and human nature in general.

In her solo, *Half of One*, Clarke is searching for the sense of self that was subtly hinted at in the previous work. Her spontaneous movements, which are sometimes sharp and sometimes melting, are nevertheless concordant and relevant. At times she seems to embrace unfamiliar directions with sweeping arms and propelling kicks and lunges, whilst at others she portrays a reluctance to abandon the present as she hugs her knees in close. This indulgence is brief however, and there is a sense of progression as if Clarke needs to keen moving on. At times she stops momentarily to gaze about her but this is done more so with intrigue than hesitancy. Her movements sometimes suggest yielding, falling or stumbling yet each one stimulates the next, as in life, a fall may lead to a new path. This connection carries us along with the dancer’s ‘journey of surprises and new self-discoveries’, and the work does not so much end but rather continues with Clarke moving steadily downstage. Thus, as each word in a sentence has its necessary place, so to does each step in Half of One, as to interrupt it would be to reduce its meaning.

What’s On