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Companhia de Dança Deborah Colker - 'Knot'

by David Mead

May 7, 2006 -- The Castle, Wellingborough, England

Deborah Colker’s trademark is the incorporation of dramatic scenic elements into her choreographies, such as the huge wheel in “Rota”. For “Knot” she employs two such devices -- no fewer than 120 ropes hanging from above in the first part of the evening and a giant Perspex box roughly three metres square in the second. The danger with such an approach is that the set becomes all important, the movement itself being relegated to a supporting act, an accusation that can be levelled at parts of this show.

Colker’s inspiration for “Knot” was desire. She says she aimed to explore its secret, terrible, violent and delicate sides, and that when we approach it, we get near to the subjects of domination, submission and power relationships.

These relationships are certainly expressed. In the opening minutes the dancers, in tight-fitting skin-tone costumes with splashes of black and red, use the ropes on and with each other. Some might find the opening reference to bondage especially disturbing, but it soon passes.

Some of the dancers are tied and suspended in a sort of aerial ballet while others use the ropes as a way of connecting with each other, sometimes creating shapes and pictures a little like a cat’s cradle. While there was undoubtedly some really inventive movement, much of it very animalistic, what was frustrating was that there were often several duets or trios happening at once and it was impossible to follow them all.

The highlight of the show comes at the end of the first ‘act’ as the pace slows and the ropes are released from their tree-like structures and left to hang free, reminiscent of mangroves or some deep tropical forest. The frantic nature of some of what went before is gone as we are presented with a series of delicate dances as the ropes change colour from silver to an amazing glowing red, danced to the slow movement of Ravel’s “Piano concerto in G major”.

Having sent us off to our interval drinks with some beautiful images and wanting more, the second ‘act’ -- where all the action takes place in and around the Perspex box inspired by Amsterdam’s Red Light District -- never really manages to scale the same heights.

Colker says this stage within a stage is a metaphor for desire, a window on what we want but cannot touch, but the dancers seem more as if they are specimens in some laboratory tank waiting to be ‘used’, which I guess sums up those ladies in Amsterdam’s windows pretty well. Within each relationship there is domination but also choice and consent, with the roles being constantly swapped and mixed-up. A variety of techniques are used, including some pointe-work.

Besides those superb forest-like images, the abiding memory of the show was the unfettered physicality of Colker’s sixteen-strong troupe and the amazing levels of trust shown in each other called for by the choreography. “Knot” is both harsh and sensitive, and everyone will be able to find moments that really work for them. There are parts that I would go see again, but I remain to be convinced that it really works as a whole.

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