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Dance Umbrella: 2 Programs

Carol Brown Dances - SeaUnSea

by Lindsey Clarke

October 13, 2006 -- Siobhan Davies Studios, London

SeaUnSea is a collaboration between choreographer Carol Brown and architect Mette Ramsgard Thomsen. The piece has grand aspirations emerging from a subtle concept. Understated fluid and serene choreography for three dancers evokes the drifting movement and interplay of creatures and plant life beneath the waves whilst shadowy images of the dancers are simultaneously projected onto two video screens -, one suspended from the undulating ceiling of the Siobhan Davies’ roof studio and one as a backdrop. The dancers’ movement triggers computer generated, constantly shifting patterns which emanate organically around them accompanied by a calming sub-aquatic sound-scape.

The digital technology involved is impressive and quite captivating to watch. Shifting sands and rolling waves seem to ebb and flow around the shadowy figures but the effect is to distract from, rather than complement, the actual dance performance. It is difficult to experience both at the same time with any perspective.

Billed as a cyclical and interactive installation experience it was also disappointing that the division between performance and audience interaction time was clearly delineated and linear, thereby excluding the audience from anything but a meaningless playtime afterwards.

Rosas - ' D’un soir un jour'

by Lindsey Clarke

October 16, 2006 -- Sadlers Wells, London

Formally conceived as a cyclical musical journey and, by its title, suggesting the passage of an evening and a day, the presentation of six new choreographic episodes from Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s Rosas was ostensibly alluring, weird, serious-minded and technically challenging but at the same time baffling, obscure and almost willfully impenetrable.

De Keersmaeker is famous for her obsession with music and pure movement, and her score here is a rich and classical one: Debussy, Stravinsky, Benjamin, including an original composition from the latter. The performance opens with Rosas’ homage to Nijinsky’s “Prelude a l’apres-midi d’un faun”, casting a topless woman in the central role in a sparse and abstract piece for three dancers, the incorporation of Nijinsky’s famous angular poses providing a recognizsable link to the original. The following pieces, in spite of the glorious music, leave the audience bemused. The second half is more engaging. Stravinsky’s “Fireworks” offers a fun and throwaway parade of exuberance and the final piece, “Jeux”, derived from Nijinsky’s controversial work of the same name, incorporates a clip from the film “Blow up” featuring a mimed tennis match. This starts promisingly but, again, the choreography disappoints, failing to communicate or subtly elucidate its laminated references.

The set is beautifully styled; an exposed, stripped bare Sadlers’ stage cut across by a rack of strip lights that rise or lower to change the mood. The white stage is coated with chalk dust that puffs up evocatively with the movement. The dancers too are a beautiful, kooky cast, colour coordinated in muted shades of gold, green, purple and blue, randomly spliced with boys and girls in mismatched suit trousers and vests and the odd incongruous woman in jeans and a spangly top straight off the high street. There is sporadic nudity.

But it’s as if the styling has sucked the life out of the choreography. The dance vocabulary is both difficult to grasp and not strange or beautiful enough to merely wash over the senses pleasurably. Extensive explanatory programme notes serve to annoy further.

Even an attempt to just enjoy the aesthetics of this programme is spoiled by the relentless and apparently depthless intellectualism that seems to beg to be acknowledged throughout. “D’un soir un jour” feels like the ultimate in continental boho styling, set to a gorgeous and exciting orchestral score and with a grand shape and concept, yet tiresomely, it fails to speak to its audience, or move them.

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