Hybrid yield

Eleanor Brickhill: Antistatic 99

Rosalind Crisp, proximity

Rosalind Crisp, proximity

These dancers seem to be moving away from those pleasantly concordant relationships particularly with sound and light design, of simple support and elaboration. In Clavicle, there’s a real hybrid growth in the fusion of those elements with choreographic design, so that new things are being said. Particularly in the first 2 works, original home and morphia series, the collaborations produced a brilliantly intense language of action and imagery.

Inexplicably, I found myself describing original home as the South Park of dance, prompted by its oblique cartoonish humour, gangly truncated demeanour, randomised interruptions of gesture and dissipated gravitas. The performers seemed to have composed themselves accidentally in a hail of instruments, objects and events—a rock rolls off-centredly across the floor, small rattling gourds, snare drums, a bowling ball, a piece of rope, cymbal, a small one-stringed instrument, pieces of wood—all exquisite, self-made, found or outlived, dancing included, which spill over the stage with a tightly orchestrated nonchalance, into an endless array of both finely-tuned and careless disturbances of space.

In morphia series, there are sudden contrasts: black-out, yellow flames, black hair and fabric over white glowing skin, concentrated stillness and fast-forward flickering sequences. Ben Cobham uses the light source like a camera, producing grainy, black and white, film-like effects on the small framed stage, revealing Helen Herbertson’s actions with textural variations, sometimes thin and stiff, too fast, not life-like, or else the image appears as if through a window, with small inexplicable, ambiguous gestures, but solid and 3 dimensional. Is she repeatedly washing her hands or warming them by a fire? Sound seemed elemental: a tinkle of bells, rain on a roof, a single light clicks on, tiny bird calls, the click of fingers, once, twice; you might see her eyelash flicker; the soft billowing light of wind-blown flames.

In Lisa Nelson’s Memo to Dodo, it’s the seeing, the visual sensing, the cycling of perception in and out through the eyes that holds your attention. The audience is implicated in her dance, you feel; a strong link, but just what that relationship is, it’s hard to know. She is holding something firmly, placing it just right, sorting things, noticing in the periphery, perpetually catching sight of something in the light; small registers of awareness, working it like breathing. Not insubstantial space, but there’s something solid she’s making from what’s around her. She sends it back in direct and exact parcels of energy.

Another section, a voice playing an old game, telling Nelson to halt, continue, reverse, repeat actions, while still carrying on that breathing in and out of light and shadow as she moves: small deliberations, holding, placing, delicately weighting a stick in hands and arms, making the windings of her body around it sometimes difficult to undo.

Graham Leak & Ros Warby, Original Home

Graham Leak & Ros Warby, Original Home

Compared to Nelson, Warby and Herbertson, Rosalind Crisp’s dancing in proximity is fluid, romantic, with a softly restrained dramatic abandon. There’s elegance in her physicality, and an emotional luxuriance more pronounced than in previous performances. Elegance too in Ion Pearce’s rarefied soundscape, dry and windy at first, but in the second section, strident, piercing. Simplicity and measure settle over the work, with a single stream of light falling across the stage onto Crisp’s moving hands as if they are in water. They seem close up, in focus. Later a handspan, 2 arms’ lengths, the reach to feet and floor. Like Nelson, Crisp works with her eyes, encompassing the details of limbs and what they surround: side by side, near and far, measuring the course of her action before she’s been there, and the traces she leaves behind.

Jude Walton’s Seam (silent mix) is full of white and black, a heavy curtain and white screen side by side, and shocking red splashes in the fabric of costumes. It’s full of text (Mallarme’s notes on the poem Les Noces d’Herodiade: Mystere) which I read long after the rest of the work was seen, and an echoing English/French vocal mix; it seems not designed for immediacy. Now I don’t recall the words. I recall how conscious I became of my own breathing as I watch a film of pinned paper seams pull and rip apart as my own ribs expanded, and edges reunited in relieved exhalation. I remember the luminous white foetus-like flesh of dancer Ros Warby, as she manipulated a tiny camera over her body, the image like an ultra-sound of something internal, soft and vulnerable, not quite formed. I remember her red dress against the black curtain, pulled back. I remember the ocean, washing over the screen in increments of flowing tide, rising higher and higher up the wall of the screen. We wait for the seam blending one wave into another, finally with a kind of inevitability, until the screen, and our minds, are somehow complete, the pieces put invisibly together.

Clavicle: Ros Warby, Shona Innes, Graeme Leak, original home (returning to it); Helen Herbertson, Ben Cobham, morphia series – Strike 1; Lisa Nelson, Memo to Dodo; Rosalind Crisp, Ion Pearce, proximity, sections 4 and 5; Jude Walton, Ros Warby, Jackie Dunn, Seam (silent mix), Antistatic, The Performance Space, April 1 – 3

RealTime issue #31 June-July 1999 pg. 10

© Eleanor Brickhill; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 June 1999
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