Review: Sofia Dias & Vitor Roriz / James Wilton - Spring Loaded at The Place

Performance: 20 April 2012
Reviewed by Jeffrey Gordon Baker - Monday 23 April 2012

Sofia Dias & Vitor Roriz: 'A Gesture that is Nothing but a Threat'. Photo: Lucian Renita

Reviewed: 20 April

Questions of form and content are never far from consideration in the practice of contemporary dance. In a post-show Q&A after Friday’s Spring Loaded programme at The Place, these questions were well articulated by choreographer-performers Sofia Dias and Vitor Roriz, whose piece A Gesture that is Nothing but a Threat occupied the first half of the evening. Roriz and Dias explained that this hypnotic work of rapid verbal and physical repetitions, was born of play, in resistance to the notion that thematics have to come first in the creation of dances. Indeed, this playful spirit infused the work, in which the pair started by sitting across a table from each other repeating words and phrases until they fell apart into mere monotonous sounds, then evolving into new words, new phrases, often to serendipitous effect.

The same happened with the movement. Fragments of what could have been household rituals or mysterious crime scene re-enactments were rewound and fast-forwarded with minor changes appearing within each new cycle. The device here could have made these feel like simple improvisation exercises, but Roriz and Dias are distinctive and compelling physical performers. They were able to mine the monotony in both the movement and the voice for subtle variations, humour, even tenderness. A pause for breath, a conspiratorial whisper or a wry look would bring us sharply back into the reality of the moment just before we were vibrated back into the mesmerising soundscape of their vocalisations. This was a fascinating work, deceptively simple in structure, a virtuoso illustration of how we simultaneously discover and create the present through the incessant repetition of the past.

Tilted even more in the direction of formal concerns, James Wilton’s CAVE was a dazzling display of relentless physicality. Four dancers, one woman and three men, including Wilton himself, coiled themselves into springs that burst open and up into the air, slamming into the floor, only to roll, twist and fly out into space again at dizzying speeds. They pushed and pulled, struggling against each other, running around and colliding just long enough to throw someone out of the way or hurl someone else across the space. There were a few pauses in which dancers contemplated the space between their outstretched hands or held a shape just long enough for it to turn into a scary shadow as the lights shifted across the back wall. Other than that it was pretty much go go go!

Although a staggering display of dancerly might, there seemed to be an imbalance between the sheer intensity of the movement and the need to make room for meanings it may have invoked. The deafening music aside, the choreography itself was loud! The hyper-athletics and throbbing rock score put me in mind of the high octane aesthetic of combat video games or John Woo action movies, overpowering without much artful nuance. The last section was practically a martial arts demonstration. But what Wilton’s piece lacked in subtlety it made up for in exhilaration. It made me wanna dance. And that’s a pretty high compliment.

Spring Loaded , the annual season at The Place showcasing the brightest talents of UK and International contemporary choreography continues at The Place until June

Jeffrey Gordon Baker took part in this year’s Resolution! Review – The Place’s online magazine which includes reviews of every Resolution! show, by professional dance critics and aspiring writers.

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