Review: Resolution 2017 - The Place

Performance: 12 Jan - 25 Feb 2017
Reviewed by Samantha Whitaker - Thursday 23 February 2017

Performances reviewed: Tuesday 21st February

You never know what you’re going to get at Resolution!, The Place’s annual festival of new works by emerging dance artists. And on Tuesday evening, we were treated to a healthy mix of diverse and engaging pieces.

WLA No.657005
Watts Dance

First up was WLA No.657005, choreographed by Cecilia Watts and performed by her newly formed company, Watts Dance. Cecilia, who is the daughter of dance writer Graham Watts and a recent graduate of Trinity Laban, took us back to 1940s Second World War Britain with her debut work. And as we entered the auditorium, we were greeted by pianist Robin Porter playing a boogie-woogie number live on stage, setting the scene.

Cecilia’s dancers, dressed in period-style khaki trousers, blouses and headscarfs, are Land Girls – members of the Women’s Land Army, who worked as agricultural labourers during the war when their husbands were called up to fight. They enter in accumulation (a dancer performs a series of movements and the others join in one at a time), joining a mechanical production line with motifs inspired by famous propaganda posters of the era – lifting, carrying, digging.

A fifth girl enters (Alice White), but she wants to have fun and dance around, not work in a field. In an upbeat, lyrical, off-balance, very Alston-esque solo, she flies around the space to a crackly recording of Music Makers by The Andrews Sisters – until a telegram is delivered and suddenly everything changes. After a tortured, floor-based solo, she collapses heavily, overwhelmed by grief. But then, one by one, the Land Girls come to her side, physically lifting her out of the blacknesses. They support her, catch her when she falls and elevate her over their heads in a beautifully executed contact sequence. She strips off her dress and they help her into a uniform like theirs, repeating the mechanical sequence from the start, now as a team of five.

The story is a simple but powerful one, beautifully told by five gifted young performers. And Robin Porter’s haunting compositions provide the perfect accompaniment. Overall, an impressive debut.

Am I a waste of space?
John Livingston Dance

Up next, a solo by John Livingston, a dance artist with Down’s syndrome who challenges the prejudices against disability and difference. Raw and deeply intimate, it feels almost voyeuristic to watch him – like we’re peering through a crack in the studio door, watching someone privately struggle with very intense emotions. Even the title – Am I a waste of space? – makes you want to reach out and offer him comfort, just as he desperately reaches out towards something he can’t see or can’t find. Some truth, perhaps. Some purpose. The motifs are pure, born of improvised choreographic exploration, and his technique, honed during his time with Candoco Dance Company, is strong.

I really wanted to love it, but the movement vocabulary is limited and the pace is unchanging, despite the diverse musical accompaniment by Purcell, Bjork and Anna Calvi.

Inter/action
Alice Weber and Ben Saffer

The final piece begins brilliantly, with dancer and choreographer Alice Weber on stage and a film of her projected behind. The real and projected Alice, in the same white dress, perform a silent duet – sometimes synchronised, sometimes not – and it’s incredibly effective. She’s trying to find herself – her performing self – and her movement is weighted and off-balance with gorgeous hyperextensions. But the sequences are also halting and unpolished, as if she’s rehearsing or testing things out, which is quite beautiful in its freedom. As the music comes in, the pace and energy build and the two Alices fall in sync, windmilling their arms together.

In the second ‘movement’, Merritt Millman joins her on stage as an alter-ego, dressed in black and lit with a red ‘warning’ light. Their duet is energetic and well-rehearsed, a power-struggle full of tension, although it’s unclear who wins. The piece ends with projected time-lapse imagery of flowers opening and closing, which Alice recreates through movement – stretching out of a foetal position, cradling baby motifs, kneeling and rolling around the floor. It’s ok, but it’s not nearly as powerful as the beginning.

12 Jan – 25 Feb 2017
The Place
Box Office: 020 7121 1100
Website: www.theplace.org.uk

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

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