I’m regrettably late to the party in seeing Hubert Essakow’s Ignis at Notting Hill’s Print Room. It’s one of my favourite small theatres and dance there is very special – you hold your hand out at times and you could touch a passing dancer, so intimate is its 80 seat, audience on 3 sides setup. And you notice things both artistically and physically that you’d never see on a larger stage – like dancers’ feet and how amazingly clever they are, constantly adjusting, stretching, scrabbling for balance and propulsion. A trip there always makes me marvel at the human body, honed in ways I never will be.
Ignis follows last year’s Flow. That was about water, the physicality of it with the stage a pool of water to caper in. Ignis takes its inspiration from fire and while we see flames for a short while near the end of its hour run, it’s mainly about fire as a metaphor for the love and relationships of life – first love, the complications of new loves, through to the end. It’s an episodic grand sweep illustrated by 3 dancers (Noora Kela, Jordi Calpe Serrats and Lukasz Przytarski – all good) and the actress Sara Kestelman, nearly 70 and looking back on a rich life. Kestelman is also a poet and her words occasionally punctuate and emphasise the action. From much bitter experience the thought of poetry and dance combined makes me shudder but Kestelman writes and recites with wonderful clarity. Her opening of Ignis really hooked me for so succinctly talking about things that younger bodies feel is an age away, but comes to us all.
creeping fear –
not of death
no, oddly no fear there,
welcome even in some strange way –
the fear is
HOW and WHERE and WHO
will be there with me when I go…
At other times, eyeing up one of the young men on stage she talks of earlier love, the joy of a lover’s armpit and nuzzling. The dancers perform around her, with her and separately, all in front of a clever mirrored screen so you see all sides of the action but which you can also see through – like looking in on another world. Lee Newby’s simple and sparse set works, but the costumes, particularly for Kestelman, feel rather grungy and unloved. Jon Opstad’s pared-back custom score for prepared piano, violin and sampled sounds, hovers over all and well unites the action. It’s his first work for dance at this length and I suspect others will be after him.
Like the words and music, Essakow’s movement is bold, clear and expressive. This is human scale, rounded and emotional and at no point do you think you are seeing dancers showing off their clever bodies with extreme angles or undue speed. It’s not a particularly sexual look at love either. It’s real, complex, exhilarating and murky – as love in life is. This is top-notch, thoughtful and satisfyingly un-sensational dance drama.
Essakow is an Associate Artist of the Print Room and a third piece in the series is planned. This is good. I have no idea how the economics of running such a small space work but I do know it’s a special place that, as here, brings out new and different things from creatives. You should go.
Ignis runs through until the 1 March 2014