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Companhia de Dança Deborah Colker - 'Knot'

by Cassandra

April 25, 2006 -- Barbican Theatre, London

Deborah Colker is the queen of props. the design elements of her works always as fascinating as the dancing. In “Rope”, her newest work to be shown in London, the dominant feature is a huge number of ropes tied together to resemble a tree. A couple dance beneath the ‘branches’ and a third dancer emerges from behind the ‘trunk’: Adam and Eve and the serpent perhaps? Well, perhaps not, as any biblical references are soon dispelled by the male half of the couple trussing up the female and Colker’s rope theme taking on the darker aspect of bondage. Once bound into an immovable position, the girl is hoisted into the air by her partner who then arranges her limbs into elegant poses suggestive of flight. Beautiful though I admit this was, I felt some unease at the sight of a woman suffering subjugation in this way, and my male companion commented afterwards that he too found this passage disturbing.

The ropes are untied from their tree configuration to look more like a tropical rain forest which the entire company then traverses. In the programme there is reference to ropes as phallic symbols, but I’m afraid I don’t see that at all. At one point two men experiment with the ropes between them in a way that recalls, of all things, “La Fille Mal Gardee”, as something resembling a cat’s cradle emerges. Towards the end of the first half the dancing becomes almost elegiac to match the music of the middle movement of Ravel’s “Piano Concerto in G”; in fact I felt that a hint of sentiment was creeping in to dilute the disturbing images at the beginning of the work.

The second half does away with the ropes altogether and features a huge Perspex tank around which a dancer (Colker herself), in a short, flounced costume similar to a call girl’s baby doll outfit, dances alone. The sexual references in this second half are more voyeurism than bondage, and at one point a male dancer sitting atop the tank reaches down with one hand and haules some of the girls up and over the rim, dropping them into the tank as if they were specimens to be examined. The pairings are many and varied though hinting at eroticism rather than suggesting any simulated sex. The entire second half is highly sensual but at the same time rather innocent. In the programme, Colker states that this is a show to bring the kids to. I would almost agree with her were it not for the images of bondage with which the work opens.

Colker selected all the music for “Knot” herself, but the various pieces used are not individually credited, though I recognised and appreciated a jazz arrangement of the love theme from “Spartacus” in the second half; the film, I hasten to add, not the ballet.

Deborah Colker’s company always gets a deservedly warm reception in London and the audience leapt to their feet at the end. My own reservations about this work were limited to the rather sinister representations of bondage at the start, but on the whole I found this work positively inspired.

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