If Play is Play… bill: Two, Before the Interval, The Days The Nights The Wounds and The Night
London, Linbury Studio Theatre
17 April 2014
Gallery of pictures by Dave Morgan
HeadSpaceDance, directed by Christopher Akrill and Charlotte Broom, got some good crits when they danced for the first time in the ROH Linbury in autumn 2012. They both have interesting and wide-ranging pedigrees including Northern Ballet, Cullberg Ballet and numerous freelance engagements, the common thread being dance drama. Last year Clemmie Sveaas joined them, and added to the mix this year is Jonathan Goddard and Gemma Nixon, all 3 of them some of the most expressive contemporary dancers on the London stage. Sadly, as new dancers join the team, Charlotte Broom decided to concentrate on directing the company rather than dancing. I sincerely hope this is not a permanent state of affairs.
Two, opening the night, is a classy 6-minute duet for Gemma Nixon and Christopher Akrill created by Johan Inger and based on a 1998 work for Nederlands Dans Theater (NDT) III – the company (now no more) composed of dancers aged 40 and above. This is a mature love duet full of powerful emotions and unresolved emptiness, amplified by the music: Arvo Part’s Silouan’s Song. You can’t really imagine younger dancers having the authority to deliver such quietly smouldering passion and I hope the company do more with Inger, currently Associate Choreographer with NDT. Two is said to be a reworked excerpt from a Couple of Moments, in which case let’s see it all, I say.
Luca Silvestrini’s Before the Interval is a companion piece to last year’s After the Interval, which unfortunately I didn’t see. It’s an insider’s view into the madness of creating dance and running a company. The dancers – Sveaas, Goddard and Akrill – are all miked up and we hear their thoughts and interactions, Akrill at first on the ‘phone and in receipt of bad and late-coming news as a dancer (Broom one suspects) tells him she is no longer able to dance in the company, but “Clemmie is there”. We see different rehearsals, almost end-of-pier dancing in some, and then the difficulties of creation and repeated demonstrating of a swooning duet, ad infinitum. They also run through many entrances that might be used to grab our attention. Although I laughed a little (like many in the audience) it didn’t really take off for me and I kept thinking I’ve seen funnier ‘dancers’ thoughts in the studio’, particularly one by New Art Club (Pete Shenton & Tom Roden). Not bad work at all, but I wanted more and it may well sharpen up in performance.
The last and most substantial piece of the evening is Matthew Dunster’s The Days The Nights The Wounds and The Night. The blurb says that it: “asks the dancers to consider what it is to be a dancer in a city like London and how it affects the rest of their lives. These ideas are explored through an innovative choreographic process using psychological techniques and theatrical game playing.” – Dunster is not a choreographer as such but listed as an actor, playwright and director. And what’s it like to be a dancer in London? Well not so nice really with much abuse, control and repetition. And some love at times, though even that can seem predatory. But towards the end they come under the spotlight, each looking gorgeous and selfishly saying “look at me”. It’s a dark view, full of meaty and immaculately executed movement, created by Dunster and the dancers, and a riposte to the funny view of being a dancer conjured by Silvestrini. Sadly there was little about this or any of the pieces themselves on the cast-sheet style programme. Nice that it’s free but the audience for new work could usefully be given a starter for ten on each piece.
All up there was lot of thoughtful and thought-provoking contemporary movement on stage made by some of the best dramatic dancers you will see. The approach is all very grown-up and I hope they do more.