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George Piper Dances - 'Naked'

Full length non-nudity

by David Mead

July 19, 2005 -- Birmingham Hippodrome, Birmingham

George Piper Dances aka The Ballet Boyz has undoubtedly been a huge hit since their formation in 2001. “Naked” is their own first full length work, something Michael Nunn and William Trevitt see as a natural development from "Broken Fall" and their work with Russell Maliphant, here credited as ‘choreographic collaborator’.

As the curtain rises, the signs are promising. Visually “Naked” is superb. Take Bob Crowley’s stark, white, motel room set, comprising only a bed, doorway and four windows, curtains wafting in the breeze. Add some moody lighting by Paule Constable and Michael Hulls, and video projections by Hugo Glendinning, and you have a really atmospheric setting. A couple are sitting on the bed. Have they quarrelled, are they in some sort of brief secret liaison?

Unfortunately, while it has its moments, and the dancers do their best with what they have been given, what follows lacks both movement and dynamic variety and rather leaves one feeling somewhat empty. The opening section features the women (Yvette Halfhide, Oxana Panchenko and Monica Zamora) in sexy dresses and high heels pursued by their men (Thomas Linecar, Nunn and Trevitt). It feels like some sort of foreplay to tensions and events to come and looks very Bausch-like, with lots of walking, changes of formation and of partner, and brief moments of contact as the men lift and turn the women around their bodies. The problem is it all gets very repetitive and doesn’t go anywhere.

The music, mostly by Fernando Corona and Richard English, reflects the one-paced nature of the dance well with its pulsing, sometimes droning rhythms. Yet the two songs, “Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps” by Doris Day and “Three Cigarettes in an Ashtray” by Patsy Cline, both come as a relief, the latter maybe providing a metaphor for the couples and the motel.

Nunn and Trevitt claim that the work is narrative, yet in the programme they seem unsure whether we are seeing three versions of a single relationship or three different relationships. There is never any emotion, tension or anything else between the dancers, especially in the all-female trio. Nothing is done to try and establish any sort of connection between the dancers and the audience. Everything is as cold as the down-at-heel motel room it is set in.

The second half is undoubtedly better than the first and features two excellent solos by Nunn and Panchenko. The final athletic duet is danced by Nunn and Trevitt with a digital clock counting down in the background. It is here that Russell Maliphant’s influence is most clear with its flowing jumps, rolls and lifts. Even here, though, there is repetition. You can’t help feeling you’ve seen this all before, probably in a previous work like “Torsion” or “Broken Fall”.

Oh, and despite the title and suggestive publicity, they’re not naked anyway. Trevitt appears to be in a brief black and white projection, but otherwise a duet featuring a topless Halfhide and Linecar is as much as you get.
As an appetiser to the main show, Motionhouse Dance Theatre performed “Chaser” in the stalls foyer. This is the company’s latest satellite piece specifically designed for taking dance to new spaces.

Set around a triangular bar, “Chaser” explores the relationships that exist in bars and nightclubs; in some ways the perfect partner to “Naked” and it’s view of motel-life. The big difference is that here those relationships are clear for all to see. It may have something to do with the fact the audience is so close, but you can almost feel the energy and emotion.

The often fast-paced choreography makes full use of the set, dancers Junior Cunningham, Vanessa Cook and Sioda Martin, moving over, under and around the bar with ease. We’re not told there is a narrative yet there seems to be one with both women seeking the man’s attention, one getting more and more desperate, to the extent that she tries to throw herself off the bar as if leaping from a cliff. Then the others leave and she is alone, her body twisting and contorting as if in some internal pain.

Powerful stuff, excellently danced, and a piece that, if anything, had rather more going for it than what was to follow.

 

Edited by Staff.

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