“Man and Woman” – Fin Walker and Ben Park, performed by Ricochet Dance Productions, The Place Theatre, London, 26th October 2005
Wednesday night saw my first visit to the Place Theatre and also my introduction to Ricochet Dance Company. However, I had seen an earlier, impressive piece by Fin Walker – ‘Reflection’, choreographed for Rambert Dance Company, and I was eager to see this new, full length work, “Man and Woman” created jointly with composer, Ben Park.
I was also curious to see John Napier’s “sculptural” set, providing ‘a shifting surface for Fin Walker's choreography’, but when the lights first came up I was disappointed to see only a hump in one corner, and a white border around the stage. However, this was later to change, as the hump split into three smaller pieces which the dancers maneuvered around the stage creating varied and intriguing landscapes. When the humps were first divided, I remember mentally challenging the performers to invert them into a see-saw and dance on top - later, to my surprise, that is exactly what they did! The only downside to the regular changes to the setting was that one moment the artists would be performing and then abruptly stop to rearrange the humps, interrupting the performance to my increasing frustration. Perhaps, one of the performers could dance a solo while the other three moved the set?
“Man and Woman” is billed as an emotional work, but we saw little of this from the dancers initially, as their faces remained blank and they made little interaction with the audience. However, they all moved skillfully, Ben Ash especially managing to slide and wriggle fluidly over the humps. Fin Walker’s choreography is demanding and the entire company embraced this challenge successfully. A sequence involving all four dancers, where the three humps stretch across the stage in a line, is the highlight of the show, the performers moving over and around the humps, executing complicated lifts along the way.
The piece was accompanied by Ben Park’s avant-garde score, which we were told was written in collaboration with the choreography. However, it was hard to establish any connection between the movement and the music, which had no clear rhythm and used an eclectic mix of instruments, with percussion to the fore. Park’s score, while accessible didn’t seem to develop, perhaps only peaking slightly in texture towards the middle.
Walker’s choreography is a mix of static stances and more fluid, complicated duets and trios. The work is supposedly a narrative, but I struggled to see this. The static, robotic gestures made by the dancers gradually decrease as “Man and Woman” develops and the choreography becomes more slippery. I could also begin to observe emotions portrayed through the movement, including shyness and loneliness, the latter illustrated in a graceful solo by Henrietta Hale.
At the end, I must confess that I was unclear about the meaning of ‘Man & Woman’. In the post-show talk with the cast and creative team, various aspects were brought up which I had not seen during the performance, such as the significance of the set, but perhaps the dance itself should have made these points more clearly. Nevertheless, I found this a pleasing work to watch with some beautiful sequences, emphasizing that Walker has the potential to become one of Britain’s top choreographers. The show was well received by the audience and I look forward to seeing more from Fin Walker and Ben Park in the future.