Review: Nora invites Aggiss, Burrows, Fargion and Tanguy - Lilian Baylis Studio Sadler's Wells

Performance: 26 & 27 November 2015
Reviewed by Josephine Leask - Monday 30 November 2015

Nora in Jonathan Burrows  Matteo Fargion's 'Eleanor And Flora Music'. Photo: Camilla Greenwell

Performance reviewed: 26 November

Nora, the partnership of dance colleagues and long term friends, Eleanor Sikorski and Flora Wellesley Wesley, unpacks some diverse styles created by their invited guest choreographers. From abstract minimalism to music hall theatricality, the young women cover a dance terrain that veers from the sublime to the ridiculous. With a shared dance history (London Contemporary Dance School and Edge) both women are on the same page in terms of dance practice and embodied knowledge but contrast more sharply in personality, as slowly emerges through the work; Eleanor has an ironic, understated manner and Flora an enthusiastic chirpiness. Of course, one compliments the other.

Eleanor And Flora Music, choreographed by Jonathan Burrows and Matteo Fargion is a highly physical exploration of music, words and sounds, inspired by Morton Feldman’s score For John Cage. Flora and Eleanor translate these components through movement that builds a mainly silent but textured symphony of actions, dynamics and spatial patterns, from jetes to high fives; floor work to humming. It’s a complex physical and mental journey which could become tedious to watch if it wasn’t for their quirkiness and humour. They frequently glance at the audience, show signs of fatigue and exchange wry smiles – incidental gestures which bring colour to their many, interrogative activities.

Famous female partnerships spring to mind in Simon Tanguy’s piece: Thelma and Louise, Hinge and Brackett – as observed by Nora, there are precious few. Eleanor and Flora, not famous yet but convincing mistresses of dance and the spoken work, talk about wild road trips, sexual desire, feminism, philosophy and what’s trending in popular culture amongst other topics which flow like one long stream of consciousness from the women’s lips. While there’s an easy integration of text with action which mirrors the content of the discussions, at times the verbal onslaught verges on the pretentious and sounds a little forced. When they both announce that silence is good for any relationship and are quiet for a moment, it’s a relief! What they say is often funny and clever, but it goes on too long and their easy, delightful connectedness suffers as a result of then trying just a bit hard.

My favourite duet is BLOODY NORA!, choreographed by Liz Aggiss. Here the women have to rise to the challenge of performing to music hall bawdiness, double- entendres, gags to the audience and absurd theatrics. And they do. Aggiss plays on the often unacknowledged features of women’s friendships – competiveness, fluctuating hormones and mutual love. Dressed in vibrant red Elizabethan hose and tights, they fight for the limelight, but talk and dance through a curiosity shop of subject matter from menstruation, personal history, random individuals and trivia. Eleanora wants to be Niddy Impekoven a German dancer from the 1920s; so does Flora. After an argument, Flora gives in and leaves Eleanora to dance her solo but appears with a big red ribbon and performs behind her.

In another section they warn the audience in unison that parents should not encourage their daughters “onto the stage”. They become so passionate about this point that Eleanora finally calls out to her mother in the auditorium with an accusing finger. It’s hysterical in its irony. A flamboyant deconstruction of the hornpipe danced by both with unruly abandonment finishes the evening on a high. It’s great to see these performers with their feisty, feminist agenda owning the stage, rather than decorating it.

Photos: Camilla Greenwell

Josephine Leask is a lecturer in Cultural Studies on the BA (Hons) degree course at the London Studio Centre and London correspondent for The Dance Insider

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