'In Plain Clothes' - 30th September, The Dance Center Columbia College, Chicago
After about 15 minutes of "should I? Shouldn't I?" having spotted Ms Davies sitting at the back of the auditoruim, I finally was able to find the courage to go and speak to her. Luckily, she turned out to be a lovely person, and we also had the "British Connection" in a room full of Americans which may have also helped
After the show, she was also good enough to explain to me a few things about the performance that I hadn't quite understood.
So, although the meeting of one of my favourite choreographers turned out to be the best part of my evening, the show itself was also good. Belo is the account that I submitted for my coursework, so apologies if it is rather basic:
This latest piece from Siobhan Davies is different in the sense that she drew on collaborations from people in non-artistic professions. Discussions with a heart surgeon, architect, linguist, and landscape architect, helped provide the structure for a piece that is about memories. Each collaborator brought their own input to the piece, but the actual movement itself was still all Davies. Her movement style in this piece was typical of her works, the dancers not being limited by a specific technique, but instead Davies encourages them to develop their own personal, individual styles (Davies has her dancers take Alexander Technique classes in order to help break the habits of their technique training). While not so technically demanding, the movement is still very physical, usually being at a fast pace, with a lot of changes in direction and rhythm. The movement is structured into sections by the full company walking right across the stage in a line, with duos and trios of dancers breaking away, representing leaving a memory behind, and each section symbolising a particular memory, for example one section remembers childhood, with a man and woman using a playful movement vocabulary, such as playfully kicking each other, and laughing with each other at regular intervals. The laughing was part of another aspect of this piece which I found unusual, which was that the dancers were creating their own sound effects. As well as the laughing, there was blowing, whistling and clapping. I found this to add another level to the performance, showing that dancers don’t have to be silent.
Davies never uses many lifts, or much contact between her dancers in her work, and this piece was no different. The relationship between the dancers changed depending on what memory was being played out, and although there were a few lifts during the work, there was usually very little contact between them, and when there was, the contact would stimulate another separate movement from each dancer.
The thing that I found most moving about this piece was that it was so quite throughout. The score was a solo piano and broken up pre-recorded speech for the vast majority of the piece, with occasional sections with a greater texture of music, but even these were very low in volume, even when the full company was occupying the stage, during which you might expect some louder, more up-tempo music. The score also never follows a clear beat, giving the piece a slight Cunningham feel to it.
The set consisted of an empty stage but with translucent light blocks located around the edge of the stage, the ones located at the back of the stage also having projected images onto the block end facing the audience, adding yet another medium – film- into this piece. There are so many modern dance pieces about which just use a black stage and no backdrop at all, so I like it when a choreographer tries to make the performance space a little more interesting.
Davies never uses particularly colourful costumes, and this piece is no different. Even though the title of this piece might suggest what the costumes were, the dancers looked like they were dressed in dance rehearsal gear rather than what would be worn in everyday life. The lack of colour in the costumes puts more focus on the dancers themselves and their actions.
Overall, Siobhan Davies has maintained her high standards of work, getting the best out of her dancers, leading to a very professional and disciplined performance. Davies’ work would not appeal to everyone however, and even she herself admits that usually half her audience will be moved by her work and the other half will just be wondering how much more there is before it’s over. I found this piece enjoyable to watch and I found myself being challenged in new ways throughout.