The Place, Spring Loaded – works by Goddard Nixon, Chris and Me, Robbie Synge – London

Gemma Nixon and Jonathan Goddard in <I>Middlemost Nowhere</I>.<br />© Benedict Johnson. (Click image for larger version)
Gemma Nixon and Jonathan Goddard in Middlemost Nowhere.
© Benedict Johnson. (Click image for larger version)

The Place – Spring Loaded Triple Bill
Goddard Nixon: Middlemost Nowhere
Chris and Me: Accompany
Robbie Synge: Settlement

London, The Place
14 June 2013
Chris Evans and Sita Ostheimer are dancers with

And the blurb says…

Spring Loaded is a season of new work from UK and international artists curated by The Place. The choreographers represent a breadth of new ways to approach dance and movement-based performance and challenge existing boundaries and our preconceptions about what dance is.

…which I think is a most fine idea and pitch – I’m all up for taking dance to new places and trying new things. But *dance*, and clever movement, is where I’m coming from and if there is little or none of this I’m feeling I’m probably not seeing my future – and sadly that was really the case for the final 2 of the 3 pieces presented. But the night started so very well…

The big draw for me was Jonathan Goddard and Gemma Nixon on the bill – if contemporary dance circles had royalty they would be in the House of Windsor for sure. They dance at another level and not for nothing has Goddard twice been voted Best Male Dancer of the year at the National Dance Awards, keeping company with the likes of Carlos Acosta, Akram Khan and Edward Watson. Ex-Rambert (and others) they are increasingly making their own way with discrete projects both with their own company, Goddard Nixon, and also as part of New Movement Collective. As an aside NMC, who so impressed Jann Parry last summer, have a new project, (Nest), coming up soon (July) in an iconic disused building on Shaftesbury Avenue – which also looks like required viewing.

Jonathan Goddard and Gemma Nixon in Middlemost Nowhere.© Benedict Johnson. (Click image for larger version)
Jonathan Goddard and Gemma Nixon in Middlemost Nowhere.
© Benedict Johnson. (Click image for larger version)

Goddard Nixon’s Middlemost Nowhere was a 2012 Place Prize commission about human life in the arctic. The costumes, by Alice Walking, and lighting, of Michael Hulls, suggested Edwardian exploration with old fashioned kagouls and a small claustrophobic hut (marked in orange light) perched in an endless expanse of snow and pack ice.

The world they conjured over 20 mins was one of lonely hardship and mental turmoil. Yes the two touched and interacted but whether inside or outside they were both just surviving each other’s company in a desolate place full of eerie sounds and the occasional atmospheric crackle of radio, impossible to interpret. Where there is nothing, there is everything in the imagination it seems and part of the inspiration was a line from The Waste Land: “Who is the third who walks always beside you?”.

The movement was exquisite, at times full of careful balances and slow complex duets, their senses slow and dulled it seems, turning in a moment to explosive speed. You know where they started and you know where they ended but the way they did it seems impossible to untangle. At various times they each give up and just lie down but forlornly come back. There is no noticeable end or structure – it’s like you are a god just happening to observe for a while the daily life of the two in this strange unreal world. I’m sure you could find different and deeper meanings but the main point is that it draws you in and it does so with dance as much as anything.

Gemma Nixon and Jonathan Goddard in Middlemost Nowhere.© Benedict Johnson. (Click image for larger version)
Gemma Nixon and Jonathan Goddard in Middlemost Nowhere.
© Benedict Johnson. (Click image for larger version)

Sita Ostheimer and Chris Evans (under the banner Chris and Me) showed a work about creating their work – Accompany – the indecision, the silliness of some ideas, the reversals. For the most part it’s done with a voice-over of their individual thoughts and a few props like a light that becomes a microphone and a high-level drape that is briefly a projection screen. A couple, there are domestic and knowing dimensions to the banter. There are also a few McGregor contortions and what I think was called her “twisting hippie movement”. But overall there is no appreciable movement and bar the occasional titter at the odd wily exchange, or concern about possible audience participation, it seemed less useful than putting the effort into a proper work.

Another piece that did not really take off as dance (there was none), interesting movement or as strong entertainment was Settlement. In a programme note choreographer Robbie Synge said, “Settlement features two men and three wooden boards. Following Robbie’s relocation from London to the Highlands, the work considers themes of vulnerability; resolution; harmony; and the effort of holding things together. Equally, it is two men building stuff.” I’d go with the latter. 20 minutes of cavorting with 3 sheets of 8 by 4, balancing them in various ways, it felt like the result of an afternoon of play in the studio. A calumny to some, I know, and I’m sure it was sweated over longer than that would suggest. But it struck me you could do a series of these “Two Chaps and three x’s” pieces – 3 fluorescent lights, 3 sliced loaves, 3 large altar candles could all yield interesting 20 minute possibilities for 2 fit bodies.

All up I’m glad I went, if only for Goddard Nixon – they are the real dance deal. Dance in some other respects can be a very, very, loose lasso term these days, but I don’t think I’m ready to see it defined as anything a dance-trained performer decides to do on a stage. Perhaps its just that on this night I didn’t see so much merit in the pieces which weren’t dance – other times I might of course.

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