Review: Tavaziva in Wild Dog at The Place

Performance: 23 & 24 Feb 2010
Reviewed by Katie Fish - Wednesday 24 February 2010

Tavaziva Dance 'Wild Dog' 28-29 Jan, Paul Robeson Theatre, Hounslow

Reviewed: 23 February

The seemingly unending energy and physical prowess of Tavaziva is almost spell-binding and the latest choreographic tour de force by Artistic Director/Choreographer Bawren Tavaziva is a perfect vehicle to show off their skills. A comment on the dwindling numbers of the endangered Cape hunting dog – or perhaps more generally, on the human impact upon African habitats – Wild Dog sees the seven-strong company become the beast of the title, ready to pounce and kill in an instant.

The relentless hopping, stamping, rolling and lunging is exhausting to watch, let alone perform and you wonder how they keep it up with such conviction. Other scratching, twitching, snatching gestures imitate canine characteristics and swift head undulations are used as dialogue. At times there is an overlap between the human and the animal; when engaged in a dance-off type contest, the entourage jeer and clap each contender.

The dancers move in a tight-knitted pack sometimes playfully aggressive and sometimes ungraciously affectionate. In one instance Katie Cambridge vigorously lunges herself across the stage unable to shake off the body that clasps desperately onto her ankle. Elsewhere bodies entwine and merge, with limbs emerging as from one enjoined mass.

Again as in the human world, there is conflict between the male and female of the species with one always trying to assert superiority over the other. As each female dancer is confronted by Devaraj Thimmaiah they are swung by the ankles, bundled over his shoulder, flipped backwards, dragged across the stage and used as a resting post. This is clearly a sexual equality free zone. There are, however, occasions when girl-power succeeds in overpowering a lone male via the old strength-in-numbers tactic.

There is a show of masculine bravura as Thimmaiah sidles up to the somewhat more statuesque Graham Adey and a clever dodging game ends with Adey mockingly patting Thimmaiah’s head as if cajoling a sulking child.

It is, however, survival of the fittest that has the final say as the pack seems to turn in on itself, and it really is a matter of dog eat dog. As the bodies of the once almost sisterly female members lie limp, the final match is between the spurring hounds and this time it is Thimmaiah who is the victor. The leader of the pack but with no pack to lead. The king of a soon to be extinct species.

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