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Francis Angol: Moments of Movements

'Physically Masculine', 'Moments'

Still in search of themselves

by Thea Nerissa Barnes

February 12, 2005 -- Lilian Baylis Theatre, Sadler's Wells, London

Angol has the distinction of creative use of African movement vocabularies in a lyrical contemporary manner that seeks to reveal his contemplations. This current program is a continuation of his investigation into relationships and is a triumph in his creative use of African movement, though it has flaws that can be rectified with just more astute attention to stage craft and compositional detail. There is still to be investigated what a work intends to portray and what selection of compositional devices and accompaniment will get the intention across. One could ask of Angol at this point in his journey as a choreographer what his art means to him and how will he transform his choreographic yearnings into expressions that others can empathise with.

"Physically Masculine"

The evening opens with a duet between Angol and Diwele Molale Lubi. The duet is meant to be an exploration of male friendship, the self and what it means to be male. Two video presentations projected on the cyclorama precede any movement. Lubi, squats just off centre stage to the right facing us, and Angol, just off centre stage to the left, faces Lubi. The first video is Angol captured in a brick enclosure that resembles a small basement room. Angol’s moves are reflective of this enclosure. The movement constricted to just his torso and arms is a metaphor synonymous with tribulation. The second solo is in the same enclosure but this time Angol moves on steps, slowly descending to the ground floor and ends in a movement that also is indicative of tribulation. From here the dance begins. Both Lubi and Angol move in specials that enclose them and hint at a type of jail in which their twisted or rhythmic stepping occurs.

They move in their separate worlds. Eventually their movement allows them to pass each other, though facing in different directions. Eventually their repetitions join and then they confront each other. Their confrontation, though, is abrupt and inconsequential. The tension set with the video and the solos is then changed by their unison, ensemble like moves that are more exhibition than further development of what had preceded. With facial grimaces and obvious fatigue, one wondered why their contact turned into confrontation and why it was so desperately negative. This duet as a non literal expression with an underlying layer of significance was sabotaged by the overpowering music and suffered from a lack of clarity. There was focus between the protagonist but herein lay the conundrum. Who was the antagonist?

Theatrical tension can be accomplished with juxtaposition, an either/or, good/bad scenario. This work revealed no hints of an either/or, nor who we are meant to empathise with. The video presentation set a tone but was too long and added to the confusion. One had to dig deep to find any relevance beyond the magnificence of Angol’s and Lubi’s movement skill: admirable use of Africanist aesthetic with its horizontal deep plié moves with polycentric arm and torso fluidity, jumps that progressed to balances on shoulders or one leg, and an adapt use of space and good stage presence. The duets between Angol and Lubi were one dimensional and offered scant indication of the relationship between them. What the relationship was all about was not clear. Some of the imagery captured was wonderful but there was no context for this relationship detectable in the space or established beyond the eye balling and facial glaring.

Moments

This work was a wonderful execution of Angol’s skill at utilising Africanist movement sensibilities with its polycentric body moves and rhythms. Starting with a brief solo by Lubi repeating gestures from the pervious work the dance continues with the entrance of a trio of dancers entering upstage left and downstage right. Hand gestures and one leg balances indicate an outward focus for the downstage group, and full body trembles and shimmies aided progression across stage and an inward focus for the upstage group. The groups cross the stage each in their own way and then a strong solo by Diane Mitchell begins. The other dancers interrupt her space repeating her moves or countering her movement statements. A second solo by Selma Nicholls is an endearing interpretation of the music proclaiming “how fragile we are!” A duet performed by Simone Foster and Aya Saotome was an affirmation of fun and exuberance. This duet begged for more exploration of the use of light that cast shadows on the cyc.

Angol’s solo that followed seemed to lip synch  the lyrics of the music being played. This solo also suffered from lack of clarity. If it was intended to punctuate what was being sung it was not clear and its repetitions of movement text lost their pace and meaning. A quartet between the women seemed under-rehearsed but the intent was honest. This quartet just needs strong rehearsal direction to clean it up and refine its design. The coda was also successful with its use of space and movement vocabulary but the ending with a quartet squatting facing upstage right seemed a choice of last resort.

The ending with the dancers gathered sitting downstage left in a special in a circle seemed a ritualistic, sacred moment to finish what started out as a non literal, non narrative, episodic exploration of relationships through dynamics, rhythm and energy. This work’s success will lay in its ability to enthral with its effervescence and refinement of the type of relationships it intends to portray. At this point some of the relationships are still in search of themselves.

 

Edited by Staff.

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