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StopGAP Dance Company

'Dancer's Syndrome', 'Corpus', 'Thank You For The Eggs!'

by Elizabeth Streeter

March 4, 2006 -- Yorkshire Dance Centre, Leeds

Adam Benjamin’s quartet “Dancer’s Syndrome” demonstrates an interesting exploration.  Deconstructing the piece, the dancers make their thought processes in performance audible, asking questions like, “Where does Chris actually stand?” and, “Do I smile when I talk?”  Interspersed with their reflections is the overlying “dance”, their arms purposefully jabbing in sharp right angles and bodies driving in firm directions.  The four create differing levels in a diagonal line, marked by a strip of light, and the image is striking.  In the line, the dancers’ individual gesticulations seem to catch something from the air, or appear to dive downwards.  As the lights fade the four, downstage, persist in flapping their hands into the darkness.  Successfully, the dancers’ admission and openness provide insight into the eternal fear of forgetting.  I appreciated “Dancer’s Syndrome” all the more for their honesty.  

All dressed up, “Corpus” by Filip van Huffel invites us to a “shindig”.  Lucy Bennett is doll-like in a purple-layered skirt and frilly knickers.  Whilst Bennett poeticises through a megaphone, “One more useless body, two-and-a-half good reasons to stay in bed…”, Dan Watson manipulates her, twisting her head and sweeping her off her feet.  The duet between Watson and wheelchair-user Laura Jones is playfully hostile: he puts his foot in her lap, and she turns him away; he says, “Get off”, but they are both giggling.  Similarly, Chris Pavia places a hand over Bennett’s eyes, and then she slumps as she arches back over his shoulder.  Pressing their foreheads together initiates a yielding and lilting duet between Pavia and Bennett, which becomes increasingly forceful through successive quickening repetitions.  The mood is lightened by a sprightly section in which the lively four bound upwards and whistle through their lips.  With end-of-party lethargy, “Corpus” descends with Jones in the foreground, the threesome behind her now singing a ditty of Bennett’s previous words, and the effect is provocative. 

A folding screen in Bettina Strickler’s “Thank You For The Eggs!” projects shadows of the dancers, who are standing behind it.  Their ‘backstage’ bickering in loud whispers is humorous, the lights turning red as trouble brews.  Like true comics, these four take themselves entirely seriously, their fixated grins failing to mask their wobbly steps and missed-footings as they stumble over one another.  Amusing, too, is a mock scuffle between the two men, their arms swinging with fists clenched as they run backwards, ducking each other’s blows.  Speeding up, this slapstick duo turns about dizzyingly and finally collapses.  Jones turns into a magician as she expressively conjures up three eggs, but, like the screen, her trickery is transparent.   A trio links arms over each other’s shoulders and steps in unison to the sound of the Andrews Sisters, their black and white costumes seeming to refer to movies of a bygone age.  However, as feet are trodden upon, the dancers’ composures wane, and their inane smiles widen with their increasing antagonism.  Watson takes to the microphone, but as the music chokes in stops and starts he frenetically jerks, his steps warped.  In salvation, the three others look on to the poor technicians on the sidelines, who shrug their shoulders hopelessly.  By the end of their farcical finale, Bennett in tears, and the rest attempting to make a finishing pose, their punch drunk satire leaves everyone in the audience chuckling.

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