dance and gravity

cleo mees: youmove’s 4tell

Anna Healey, Sean Marcs, Last Place to Go, 4Tell, youMove Company

Anna Healey, Sean Marcs, Last Place to Go, 4Tell, youMove Company

Anna Healey, Sean Marcs, Last Place to Go, 4Tell, youMove Company

SEVEN BODIES FORM A CIRCLE ON THE FLOOR, CURLED UP, KNEES TO CHESTS, WHITE FLESH VISIBLE IN THE DARK. THEY BEGIN TO WRITHE: CRUNCH THEIR TORSOS TO PUSH HEADS UP TOWARDS THE CEILING. I HEAR THE BEGINNINGS OF AN AMBIENT WORLD MUSIC-SOUNDING TRACK. THE DANCERS ROLL AND SLIDE, PUSH THEMSELVES ACROSS THE TARKETT WITH THEIR ARMS. LEGS WORK HARD BENEATH UPPER BODIES. HEADS LICK AT THE CEILING. THIS DANCE IS FAST, ITS DANCERS AGILE.

Boundaries is the first work in 4Tell, a series of short pieces devised mainly by guest choreographers and performed by Kay Armstrong’s youMove Company. In the lead-up to the performance the company members have been encouraged to share their ideas and reflections with each other by contributing regularly to a blog. Throughout the show they each perform a short solo developed from one of their blog posts.

So, hot on the heels of Boundaries, company member Anna Healey performs a solo that breaks down the process of creating a blog post. Letters punched into a keyboard. Scrolls and clicks. Save draft. Preview. A post about the daily hopes and routines of an aspirational dancer.

Sandwiched between the dance works, the solos present 4Tell as the culmination of a mentoring process. They add an educational dimension to the evening. Most of them display an interest in process and are charged with a sense of self-revelation—this is us meeting the dancers on their own terms.

As the night progresses I begin to notice a consistent tone across the performances. Perhaps it’s because the same eight dancers perform in all of the pieces. I get to know them over the course of the evening, and by the final work, Multiplicity, I find I am looking out for familiar faces. But a certain quality is also recognisable across the group. There is control. There is muscle tone. And there is clear forward-thinking: these dancers always seem prepared for what is coming next.

In the second work, By Looking, a group of three moves in a tight spiral formation downstage. On their feet, the dancers sway in and out from one another, releasing tension and breath so far on the outward swing that I hold my own breath. But no one topples over. Later the dancers work in two pairs. There is body contact, the giving and taking of weight. Initially each exchange feels like a risk, but I soon stop expecting the dancers to fall. They may throw themselves around, but they know how to keep it together.

Angela French, 3rd Time Over

Angela French, 3rd Time Over

Angela French, 3rd Time Over

The only work choreographed by a youMove company member is a solo developed by Angela French with mentorship from Kay Armstrong and Force Majeure’s Kate Champion. French appears on stage in a navy blue dress, hair parted fiercely down the centre. The dress is tailored. A shimmer in the embroidery. There is music: a recorded string orchestra that plays a fast but steady course.

French’s hand floats about as though suspended on a string. Then it soars up over her head. Quickly her other hand flies up and pulls the first one down. The first hand continues with its exploration. I get the feeling that this dancer does not know what is coming next.

She traverses the stage. Halfway across, her legs give way beneath her. Again, it’s like she didn’t know it was coming, as if she actually lost all the strength in her lower body. On the floor she crawls, slaps a hand to the fleshy part of her arm and then to her thigh, pulling herself about. Up she gets, continues to travel—but her legs give way again. My stomach turns. Her hand floats up and she pulls it down; and again, and again. The pulling down starts to feel more like a slap on the wrist—like a self-correction.

I enjoy the rawness in this piece; the lean towards the irrational. Also, the way in which this dancer manages her body. It’s as if the dance happens to her, catches her off guard. And I enjoy the repetition. Sometimes there is such a range of content in choreography that I start to lose track, but this piece presents just a few things, thoroughly. All of this dawns on me gradually, as the evening progresses; as I take in the procession of shapes and ideas making their way across the stage.

youMove Company, 4Tell, curator, artistic director Kay Armstrong, guest mentor Kate Champion, company dancers Jay Bailey, Imogen Cranna, Angela French, Jayne McCann, Lauren McPhail, Melinda Tyquin, Anna Healey, mentee: Tracey Parker, guest dancer Sean Marcs, lighting Guy Harding, http://youmove.blog.com; www.youmovedance.com.au; Riverside Theatres, Parammatta, Sydney, Oct 27-29

RealTime issue #106 Dec-Jan 2011 pg. 28

© Cleo Mees; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

13 December 2011