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Walker Dance Park Music ďSilence of the SoulĒ, image by Ravi Deepres

 

Walker Dance Park Music

'Silence of the Soul'

by Lyndsey Winship

February 27, 2004 -- Linbury Studio Theatre/London

 

The fact that Fin Walker has changed the name of her company to include composer Ben Park proves that the status of music in her work is more than mere accompaniment. At the Linbury Studio the musicians are equal stars of the show Ė assembled behind a translucent screen, they provide a visual as well as an aural backdrop.

It is surprisingly uncommon for contemporary choreographers to use contemporary classical music for their work, usually preferring atmospheric electronics, catchy songs, or the safety of baroque counterpoint. But Parkís multi-layered music is the perfect foil for Walkerís frenetic, stop-start movement, adding extra dimensions of space and texture as well as underlining the energy and momentum that drive the piece forward.

Itís an unconventional ensemble; a pair each of cellos, bassoons, and trombones, plus double bass and percussion make for interesting shifts of timbre between dense string chords, reedy melodies, and stuttering percussive bursts. The music shares characteristics with the movement but doesnít dictate it, or vice versa.

As for the dancing, this is Walkerís first full-length work, and itís interesting to see whether her quick-fire choreography can fill a whole evening. The dancers definitely have the stamina but for a choreographer, making a longer work means looking at larger-scale structures and themes. She starts boldly: the dancers have only just begun their rhythmic juts and shunts when everything stops dead, in complete stillness and silence. Itís a striking and quite exhilarating moment. Then everything resumes, seven dancers tugging and spinning, in pairs and solo, colliding skilfully with each other, setting off a chain of reactions before suddenly freezing to the spot again and holding their silence for just longer than seems polite.

Unfortunately, having introduced this device at the beginning, Walker then does nothing with it. But never mind, thereís plenty more to look at.

"Silence of the Soul" has the sense of a precisely orchestrated improvisation. It is controlled and polished yet at the same time, haphazard and utterly unpredictable. Some of the movements are quite extreme Ė sharp soaring extensions and tangled angular floorwork Ė but thereís no fuss or fanfare, itís just straight on to the next move.

The look is sparse and stylish, the costumes are simple, slight and white, and the lighting warm but unimposing. This piece feels very urban in the sense of multiple lives lived closely together, the busy shifting rhythms, the flurry, the hiatus and the impatience, and a sense of sophistication. Unlike the pastoral lyricism of Alston or the futuristic, electronic feel of Wayne McGregor, this is very now, genuinely contemporary.

Thereís a change of pace when the dancers switch from their quick combinations to a series of painstakingly slow duets. Their bodies are very real, not balletís weightless nymphs or circus acrobats. They lift each other just centimetres from the ground with a firm grasp, winding their frames into unlikely balances and combining bodies into geometric puzzles. A duet for two female dancers is particularly fine, probably because itís the kind of hands-on dancing that two women rarely do together.

From then on it all accelerates to a finish, and while this is immensely enjoyable choreography you canít help but feel that Walker could have explored or reinforced her overarching themes more pointedly. Nevertheless, the fruitful partnership of Walker Dance and Park Music is definitely a double act to watch.

 

Edited by JC

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