M Group - 'The Dressing Room'; Company Kx2J - 'Black Tunnel'; Shine On Dance Company - 'The Moat of Tears'
by Thea Nerissa Barnes
January 9, 2006 -- The Place, London
THE DRESSING ROOM
This work began with company members feigning cleaning and causing a mild ruckus while intermingling and speaking loudly to audience members as they entered the auditorium. Onstage were various items of clothes laying or hanging on six chairs. Soon one member of the company began sweeping the floor as the lights darkened. With the white backdrop changing to a blue shade, the music began.
The dance was episodic with each section imparting a different scenario. In the first two sections, a custodian seemed to represent the real world while the dancers, spirits or spectres existing in the custodian’s mind, moved around the stage. Throughout the work there seemed to be two dimensions, one in which the cleaner or later in the work a single dancer inhibited the real world. There were then sequences, duets and solos that seemed to inhabit a protagonist’s mind. In the first section the dancers, dressed in red leotards and black tights, wore white masks. As an ensemble, the dancers’ moves utilised a medley of styles drawn from conventional jazz, ballet (some of the ladies were on pointe) and contemporary movement vocabularies. Lyrical, linear combinations formed the bulk of the movement language which incorporated strong dramatic intention. In the next episode, the dancers wore red masks, moving around the stage while the custodian, oblivious of their presence, continued her work.
With the lighting state an amber red, Caroline Lynn entered, standing by one of the chairs stage left. Lynn’s movement began in silence but she was soon joined by a suitor, Tony Anderson. Their duet, an uncomplicated scenario of young love expressed through moves and poses with oppositional spatial relationships, was accompanied by a lush piano score that accentuated the lyricism of the movement. A yellow section began with dancers who entered and rearranged the chairs and changed clothes as other dancers enter. What followed was the enactment of several common incidents that could happen in any dressing room in Western theatre. Comical for those with backstage experience, a curiosity for those not in the know, everything was portrayed, from mice in the room to recognisable dancer warm-ups. The music by Yumi Cawkwell and Ryuichi Sakamoto -- for the entire work but especially for this episode -- was advantageously used to emphasize each event as well as support the ensembles’ movement. A blue light section began with Sarah Christopher, who entered greeting the other dancers as they left. Following a moment of contemplation, Christopher was joined by Harvey Klein. The intention of this duet seemed a different kind of love than the first. This duet had the same melodic feel with moves coordinated with the music but incorporated more balletic forms. In particular, the solo for Klein was comprised of attitude and second position turns that progress on a diagonal to Christopher. Christopher performed gestures that seemed to indicate she was pregnant and Klein, seemingly more mature in movement and posture, seemed to indicate that he was no longer with this woman. As the duet ended and Klein exited, the other dancers entered and consoled Christopher. Whether Klein simply left or died we can only imagine.
This work with its particular scenarios works well for those who can relate to the collection of events with the duets having a more universal depiction easily appreciated by most audience members. The opening interaction with the audience members seemed cliché though amusing. The program notes indicate that Miwa Saeki devised the concept and direction with company members assisting in the composition of the work. Given the mixture of movement vocabulary and eclecticism of technical/performance skills of the dancers, this work had sound compositional astuteness and managed to maintain a level of integrity for each form.
Kuei-Ju Tung began her dance lying on the floor stage left in a white shaft of light; then blackout. Lights up and only a purple cloth remained on the floor. Several more times the lights were brought up and taken out while the dancer took several postures. Moving sequentially to stand then to bend forward, the music quickened and Tung grabed the purple cloth stretching it over head. The fabric seemed rather taut, not stretchable. The fabric was draped around the upper torso and tied at the front and after several torso contortions Tung fell to the floor and rolled centre stage. More scrummage brought the dancer to stand while flinging the cloth in several “gather and fling” motions. Walking upstage and downstage and on the diagonal, more intricate moves occured accompanied by percussive music. Using the fabric-like ribbons, Tung moved through the space. This episode finished centre in a spot of white light. Tung peeled the fabric from her and with more melodic music, she moved more freely. Had Tung been freed from some burden? Had she succeeded in breaking from some enclosure? The declining of brilliance of the spot light proposed another intention. As Tung moved away from the cloth, her spatial arrangement and movement was somewhat cylindrical: up to the air and into the floor with little if any leg extensions. Tung returned to the centre, the spot returned and she grabbed the cloth and stood as the lights descended.
Program notes indicate a tunnel in which the feeling is “close to death” with space getting smaller and noise getting louder. The work started well enough but from the centre spot to the dance interlude, it lost the plot and became more a dance for dance’s sake -- not what the journey had set out to investigate. A good idea that needs editing, another choice of music and devotion to the theme.
SHINE ON DANCE COMPANY
THE MOAT OF TEARS
Program notes indicate this work is a series of short pieces looking at different aspects of domestic violence. Choreographically episodic in its composition, this work proposed the enactment of domestic violence through movement parody and spoken text. The choreographer, Debbie Shine, drew from several movement vocabularies -- lyrical jazz and contemporary being the most extensively utilised. The lighting assisted in metaphorically supporting what the movement suggested and the music also assisted in carrying the intended message.
The first duet, with lyrical moves expressing a tender love, turned into an enactment of abuse. A trio of men dancing in a red light, rolled, slipped into the floor, slapped each other, carried each other through space and somersaulted enacting what seemed to be some macho fraternal camaraderie. This was followed by a woman laid on the floor and a man with a red carnation. With black and blue light, the man spoke, saying (among other lines of prose) “keep her, love her, free her.” During this duet, he grabbed his crotch relating what to do with a woman as he ate the flower and walked off. A trio of women began, comprised mostly of rolling and scrumming on the floor with intermittent sequences of standing postures. More spoken text and the women enacted the word “alone.” Four men and a woman danced next, performing a collage of contrapuntal duet and solo movement phrases. While the gentlemen performed single gestures, postures and “looks” upstage, a duet occurred or some lifting sequence with two or more men occurred. The woman danced with each one and at the end demeaned them all. There is a duet of unabashed physical abuse presented with flinging and tussling movements. Ironically, this was potentially the most inventively successful duet in the work. The next episode had the sound of a shower with a woman sitting in a spot of white light. She was crying and tearing at herself. We can imagine from her gestures what has happened to her. Blackout, lights up and a man struggleed on the floor in a bathrobe. Spoken text, possibly reciting the words that provided the starting point for the sections in this dance, “moat of tears” and this man was taunted and driven off stage. The coda began with two women dancing then a quartet and the dance became almost celebratory.
The light feel of the last section following such provocative material along with spoken text lacking in clear diction or audio support sabotaged the effectiveness of this work. Also, there was a time in contemporary dance when diminished technical training or lack of experience with conventional movement vocabularies was privileged. Audiences filled with friends and supporters understood the intentions for such a dance and applauded the triumphs of dancers whose heart was in the right place but whose technical and compositional skills were not as accomplished. The challenge now is whether a work such as this can succeed without seeming trite.
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