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Helen Plewis et al - 'Cameo'; Sol Dance Arts - 'NA BI (a butterfly)'; CASHdance - 'Pulled to Pieces'

by Ramsay Burt

January 19, 2005 -- The Place, London

Helen Plewis et al.: "Cameo". Nice to see such a large cast - seventeen in all - at Resolutions. As the title suggests, this was a series of cameos collaged together, sometime with more than one thing going on on stage at the same time and with some group sections. Mostly these explored situations of mild social discomfort. A man sitting on a sofa read aloud from a very dull book on bird's sexual behaviour while a woman, to his discomfort, began to touch and fondle him in an increasingly intimate way.

Near the beginning, people came to greet one another only to be pulled back by a rope tied to his or her ankle before they actually met. A hostess at a party made her guests play a strange variation on musical chairs where a pair of people caught out had to guess what they had in common. There was also a nice moment when a woman peddled hard on an exercise bicycle while behind her a video was projected of the view out of a car window of a trip through what looked like an African landscape, but the car was going in the opposite direction to that in which the bicycle was facing. After she was joined by a jogger, who jogged hard on the spot, the two of them were overtaken by a man on a ludicrously small child's stunt bike who weaved lackadaisically around the stage. Overall however I felt the piece lacked clear throughlines and needed to be tighter both structurally and in the way it was performed. The effect would perhaps have been edgier if some performers hadn't been trying so hard to seem on edge.

Sol Dance Arts: "NA BI (a butterfly)". This piece tackled the big theme of the life process from birth to death with slow, intense, Japanese image-based movement material performed by four women - two Asian, two European - who were briefly joined at key moments by a young girl. This was a piece about atmosphere. The four women, dressed in striking, loose, crumpled paper costumes performed intense, inwardly focused movements that suggested powerful feelings - in one section arms waving and reaching, in another lying on the ground with legs like sea anemones drifting with the current.

Occasionally the mood tipped over into the sentimental - reminding me bizarrely at one moment of a work by Christopher Bruce. I've seen other pieces exploring similar cosmic themes with butoh-like movements that had less material that was drawn out over a longer period and performed with greater intensity. There were occasional brief appearances by the young Japanese girl. In the first she merely came on and stood in a spot light so that only her face was lit up as she stared calmly at the audience. Later she came on and stood in a pool of light holding a glossy china skull. Twice at the end she came on an roller bladed around the other dancers. The more she appeared, the less impact her presence had - the law of diminishing returns. Like Cameo, "NA BI" as a whole would have been more had it done less.

CASHdance: "Pulled to Pieces". Unfortunately, the triple bill ran late and I had to catch a train back up north and miss this last piece on the programme.

Edited by Jeff

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