Review: Toni Jodar - Modern Dance Speaks! - Lilian Baylis Studio

Performance: 7 & 8 November 2012
Reviewed by Josephine Leask - Friday 9 November 2012

Toni Jodar

Performance reviewed: 8 November

Toni Jodar is a compact, athletic man whose body communicates a wealth of knowledge as clearly as his voice. His solo Modern Dance Speaks! takes the form of a lecture demonstration, in which he ambitiously takes us through the history of modern dance from Isadora Duncan to the postmodern experimentations of the Judson Church choreographers. Jodar’s physical and verbal explanation of how one pivotal choreographer carried on from the last both simplifies and clarifies the progression of dance from the 19th century to the contemporary from a practitioner’s perspective. He explains what it feels like to dance in the style of each luminary, translating the technique, motivation and intention through his own personal connection with it.

Enlightening for an uninformed dance audience and engaging for all, he’s a jack-of- all trades as he travels across the stage in regal balletic jetés and pirouettes, emotes in contraction and release à la Martha Graham or falls and triumphantly rebounds in Doris Humphrey’s obsession with the vertical axis. More difficult for Jodar is to disengage with the emotions and theatrical familiarity in the execution of mechanical upper-torso curves of Merce Cunningham, or to release his muscles in the fluid, organic improvisation of Steve Paxton and Trisha Brown. But he’s comfortable in his rendition of angst-ridden German expressionism, in the percussive, tense moves of Mary Wigman and the tormented lyricism of Pina Bausch’s dance-theatre.

A Catalan from Barcelona, Jodar trained in both Barcelona and New York prior to his long standing career as a performer, teacher and choreographer and he communicates his breadth of knowledge not as an academic but as an embodied educator. His unbridled enthusiasm for dance is infectious as is his charm and generosity on stage. He is a commentator, not a critic and while there is some over simplification and a disconcerting lack of critical thinking, nevertheless, he successfully illuminates what is the interesting and important core of each dance genre and the context that produced it. As well as the extracts of danced examples and some wonderfully obscure film footage, he embellishes his lecture with humorous reflections and anecdotes. For example, how he struggled to understand the “emotionless robotic” style of Merce Cunningham from the position of his emotionally demonstrative Catalan identity, but had a break through when he concluded that this was because American people had suffered less than their war-ravaged European neighbours; therefore without having to carry around emotional baggage, American experimental choreographers could concentrate, with detached objectivity, on movement ‘per se’.

While Jodar’s use of language and stuttering delivery is sometimes awkward, he makes up for his linguistic imperfections [in the English language] with his physical prowess and embodied wisdom. Thoroughly likeable, he would be a welcomed lecturer in any dance institution.

Read our interview with Toni Jodar

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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