Sat 18 Jan: Suse Tietjen/Lucy Palmer Dance Company/Ishaan De Banya & Kenny Wing Tao
POSTED: 19 JANUARY 2014 | AUTHOR: SANJOY ROY & NICOLAS KYPRIANOU
Suse Tietjen: Brother of Sleep
Lucy Palmer Dance Company: Scratch Mark
Ishaan De Banya and Kenny Wing Tao Ho: Casting Shadows
The evening kicked off percussively with a live band accompanying Suse Tietjen’s choreography Brother of Sleep. If flailing limbs and backbends were meant to communicate the suicide of musician, Johannes Elias Alder, then this seemed absent to the string of half-naked dancers. They instead carefully reacted to the trills of the clarinet, thudding to the floor in moments of silence. However, credit is due to Joshua Gill for his performance, where the rest of the ensemble cautiously approached his curiously writhing body. Gill ended the story with a euphoric expression on his face, as if passing away, a possible representation of Alder. Tonight was the night for Roehampton University, yet another alumni showcased their work, following Tietjen. Lucy Palmer Dance Company presented Scratch Mark, which apparently conveyed deep emotion in the form of yearning looks and generic moves that may be more suited to a technique class. The electronically synthesized sound score pounded and whizzed to a steady beat, resulting in the dancers becoming slaves to counts. In unison, bodies were flung across the floor, before stumbling to a full stop. Jules Shapter lit and composed the music with an intelligence that made me want to see more of the golden pools of light, which began and ended the piece. Roehampton’s parade came to an end with the collaboration of Ishaan De Banya (Richard Alston Dance Company) and Kenny Wing Tao Ho (Protein Dance). Their playful duet had an essence of capoeira competitiveness. An air of increasing hostility towards each other had the pair fixated by the way they both whirred around like spinning tops. When the focus was lost they reset to a position of peace, facing each other, with one arm overlapping the other. Circling, rhythms escaped their auras. Fluidity was interrupted by sharp judders in their torsos, expelling energy to a dramatic soundtrack by Chris Edwards. Serenity overtook the pair, sending tranquility outwards as the night came to a close.
Suse Tietjen’s Brother of Sleep is a dark little piece, shot through with images of suspension and falling. It opens with the eight dancers lying sideways, limbs wafting, as if caught in freefall. When standing, the dancers often seem to waver; later, they catch and hold each other in mid-air. The mood of restless limbo suits Tietjen’s theme of insomniac disturbance, and if the choreography sometimes veers close to drifting off altogether, it is kept anchored by Gareth Moorcraft’s score (played live), an unsettling texture of accordion sighs, twitchy rhythms and atonal wanderings. Lucy Palmer’s Scratch Mark, for six women, is more dynamic but less effective. It begins promisingly, a menacing soundtrack rumbling behind dancers isolated within cages of light, hands scrabbling over their skin as if they were trapped inside their own bodies. The piece expands into chases and rebuffs, heightening the twin sense of confinement and escape – but all too soon the score settles into a four-square pulse and the dance congeals into generic dives, pitches and rolls, spliced with familiar gestures and composed into building-block phrases. Scratch Mark is certainly more than the sum of its parts, but its highlights are submerged beneath washes of classroom choreography. Palmer could learn from Ihsaan de Banya andKenny Wing Tao Ho, whose Casting Shadows is an object lesson in how to create a riveting composition from a few moves. The opening, almost uncomfortably long moment of stillness forces our focus onto the single point of contact between the men: their hands. This small, charged connection sparks the dancers into roving phrases of deep backbends, long leans and razor flicks that strain but always maintain the relationship between them, whether in spiralling symmetries, in shifting patterns of reflection, delay and interference, or in simple steps placed perpendicularly, so that an upright walker seems to be following his own floorbound shadow. The result is a choreographic forcefield, composed not only of action but of space, and stillness.
Three fresh new works at The Place’s Resolution! festival
Catherine Sutherland, 20 January 2014
Suse Tietjen, Lucy Palmer Dance, Ishaan De Banya and Kenny Wing Tao Ho end the first week of Resolution! 14 with a huge following of fans in the audience. The Place have been running their Resolution! festival of performance by young upcoming choreographers for 25 years. Since 1990, hundreds of choreographers have graced the stage with unknown works that have never been seen before. Some huge names began here: Russell Maliphant and Hofesh Shechter showcased works here in 1992 and 2004 respectively.
The choreographers here in 2014 have a lot to live up to, yet – regardless of where they end up in future – they become part of a strong dance community, who show their support by turning up to watch. The audience includes friends and family of the dancers and choreographers, who huddle over the programme looking for the names of their friends, and more established professionals – like Richard Alston – can be spotted in the audience. The festival is a marvellous social occasion, offering a supportive, creative atmosphere for the performers and choreographers alike. This is the place to be for young artists, tonight and all month, every year.
Before the performances begin Eddie Nixon, director of The Place, asks the audience to take the Resolution! pledge. We all raise our right hands and repeat: “I do solemnly swear that if during tonight’s performance my neighbour uses or even thinks about using their mobile I will politely ask them to stop.” What a great way to foster respect for the dancers on stage.
Suse Tietjen’s Brother of Sleep follows the story of a boy who has resolved never to sleep again. Eight dancers fly up from the floor explosively and collapse into sleep. The group quickly singles out a lone boy and encircles him as he writhes and twitches centre stage. His head falls forward into his hands and he jerks awake, unable to relax into slumber as others do. He snatches at the air with relentless, frantic energy, and is plucked from the ground by another dancer. Each dancer falls and is caught, wrenched back from the stupor of sleep, and righted by the other. Brother of Sleep is set to a powerful piece of music of the same name by Gareth Moorcraft, played live on stage, which accompanies the dance with an appropriately haunting – and at times shrill and jolting – sound. This work explored some interesting ideas, and could go far with some refinement.
Scratch Mark by Lucy Palmer Dance opens with a lone, faux-nude dancer in a rectangle of light, attacking herself. Her quick, harsh movements jab at and constrain her body and convey her extreme self-loathing. Throughout the piece, six female dancers attack, pushing one another with aggressive touches, and retreat into their own enclosed, personal spaces. They move at high speed, flinging their bodies full-force across the stage as if intending harm upon themselves. The six dancers form a line across the stage, each absorbed in her own frantic movements. One by one they let their emotional scars drop away, relax, stand tall and almost float off stage. One lone dancer is left alone, frantic, desperate, and unable to relax. Her tense movements increase in speed and her harsh breath pierces the space as the lights fade to black. This striking performance by Lucy Palmer Dance Company is intensified by Jules Shapter’s lighting design and music. The piece was highly engaging – Lucy Palmer has the potential to become the next big name featured on the walls of The Place.
Ihsaan De Banya (Richard Alston Dance Company) and Kenny Wing Tao Ho (Protein Dance) begin Casting Shadows standing face to face, holding hands in stillness. They pass a few minutes like this and we hear them breathe together, finding a common rhythm deep within their bodies. The audience begins to get restless. Abruptly, one hand darts out and grabs the other’s face, then is gently pushed away. Hands fly to their partner’s hips and shoulders, and the pair retain eye-contact as they build a physical connection, initiating a joint exploration of movement language. They seem constantly aware of one another, mirroring and copying movements. De Banya stands over Wing Tao Ho as he moves horizontally across the stage. Slowly a connection develops between their feet and it’s as though Wing Tao Ho has become De Banya’s shadow, moving in unison at a 90-degree angle. A cyclical duet comes to a head centre stage as the pair spar head to head, and eventually establish an equilibrium, moving as one. Throughout Casting Shadows I was fascinated to see the slight differences between the two bodies as they perform the same movements – no doubt this gap will narrow as the pair further develop their common movement language. This budding relationship between two young choreographers could prove very fruitful.
The Resolution! festival at The Place provides a unique opportunity for young, upcoming choreographers and dancers to establish themselves as part of the creative community in London. All three of these choreographers show great potential for successful futures in dance.