Review: Nina Kov, Catarina Carvalho & Michael John Harper - Vuong 10 - Rich Mix

Performance: 13 December 2014
Reviewed by Josephine Leask - Thursday 18 December 2014

Vuong 10. Photo: Carole Edrich

Performed at Rich Mix in the cool, grungy, recesses of Shoreditich, Vuong 10 is everything you would expect to see in this groovy niche of east London: minimal, sophisticated and esoteric. Choreographers Nina Kov, Catarina Carvalho and Michael John Harper have developed a short piece they had jointly created for Randomworks in 2013 curated by Wayne McGregor at King’s Place, using music by Leafcutter John and Max Baillie.

The dancers, Maren Fidje Bjorneseth and Kenny Wing Tao Ho explore each other’s bodies with intrepidation and child-like innocence. Dressed in flesh coloured underwear visible under plastic/latex ponchos, they look like futuristic versions of a cave man and woman. Finding themselves in some pre-verbal conundrum, their faces contort with the effort of trying to utter words. When that fails to aide communication they focus on using limbs and different parts of the body and eventually make contact.

Through their interactions and set against an aural landscape of electronic, digitally made music, the dancers are like the survivors of an advanced civilisation that has crashed. Their post- apocalyptic condition is translated through their movements which are all about rediscovery and re-learning as they figure out how to connect through touch. This they do tentatively at first, keeping one another at a distance, using finger tips and extremities.

When they have cracked through this initial barrier they become more intimate and use their heads to roll over the contours of each other’s bodies. There are fleeting moments of affection but they are short-lived; emotions are limited to those of frustration and aggression, but co-dependency builds between them. Inspite of the intense excavation of one another’s bodies and lots of very sensual, massaging actions, their contact remains curiously asexual. Is this future world, post-sexual as well?

The material created by by this line-up of fresh choreographic talent establishes a novel aesthetic: one that is animal-like, pedestrian, athletic but with the odd flash of conventional technique – a high leg extension or unexpected jete. Refreshingly un-showy and non-virtuosic, Vuong 10’s physical language exposes Bjorneseth and Wing Tao Ho as intelligent, creative performers, who are not scared to experiment.

Their skill in searching for both other sources and range of movement that do not stem from codified techniques or superficial endeavour, is developed in two solos in which the dancers stumble, crouch, remain still or hurl themselves across the space with utter conviction.

Vuong 10 is a performance full of bizarre, experimental moments such as when the dancers attach twig extensions to their fingers and gently scratch each other, like monsters in a sci-fi movie until they become frustrated with the impeded contact and rip the twigs off. Then there is the music – Leafcutter John samples a range of sounds from the dancers, from violinist Max Baillie and from a variety of other sources through his lap top.

Music matches the choreography of the dancers perfectly and while Vuong 10 is not easy listening, it’s not easy watching either. However what really matters here is the spirit of creativity and unashamed experimentation.

Catch Vuong 10 again at JW3 on 14 & 15 January

More on Vuong 10

Photos: Carole Edrich

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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