For those who have time
London, Lilian Baylis Studio, Sadler’s Wells
10 October 2014
For the latest in Sadler’s season of works by Nordic artists, Finnish choreographer Maija Hirvanen has created a very arresting seven-minute solo for the limber and watchable Andrius Katinas, and half an hour of filler to go around it.
For those who have time opens with dancer Hanna Ahti performing a solo dance of fear, twitching and trembling all over while reciting a deadpan litany of things to be afraid of. Katinas then takes the stage to hastily list all the things he doesn’t have time for – showering, sleeping on flights, playing with his daughter, worrying (like Ahti) about acid rain – all the while locking his limbs into a devilishly complex sequence of jarring, collapsing, stop-starting movements. It’s funny, provocative and playful, and I sorely wish the rest of the performance had lived up to the potential of this solo.
Instead, we get an incoherent series of live-art clichés: a member of the cast is spray-painted for no apparent reason; reminiscences about the past are told in interrupted, accumulating phrases that lead nowhere; a lot of black balloons appear on stage and are batted into the audience and finally the cast join together in a rather jolly song about dancing in the face of oblivion. Like the proverbial curate’s egg, parts of the performance are quite enjoyable – but they’re spoiled by the parts that are ill-conceived padding.
One low point in a season may be considered unfortunate; two starts to look like carelessness. It’s once again a frustrating evening, this time because the opening sections of the performance are well-crafted and ripe with potential, but Hirvanen’s ideas run out long before her material does, leaving a mere 45 minutes in the theatre feeling like far too many.
Taken together with last week’s visitation from Iceland (on which, admittedly, Hirvanen’s work is an improvement), For those who have time raises serious questions about how beneficial this kind of international exposure is to young choreographers who simply aren’t ready. Had the work been performed in a student showcase or local platform for emerging artists I would have still felt lukewarm about it; but placing the piece on one of the Sadler’s stages in a season designed to showcase Nordic dancemaking raises expectations – and in some cases perhaps unfairly.
Younger artists need support to build their craft, but one has to ask if a programming platform without some kind of mentoring or development scheme (none is mentioned in the programme) is the best way to help emerging dancemakers build their international reputations, or whether this kind of exposure could potentially be more damaging than beneficial. In this case, Hirvanen would have been better served by a more relaxed platform – and a friendly word from someone about the excess fat that needs to be trimmed from her piece.