Collaboration is the theme running through dancer/choreographer Tim Casson’s Wild Card evening at Sadler’s Wells; it’s also the foundation stone of his Casson & Friends project, running since 2012. So while you waited for the show proper, you might have found yourself creating a piece of choreography for a dancer (part of Casson’s record-breaking online performance project The Dance WE Made). In the interval you might have caught the pair of micro-performances, created from scratch in two days by a dancer and an artist from another discipline who had never previously met (For Dust You Are, combining the talents of Robert Guy and filmmaker Alisa Boanta, was a hauntingly beautiful use of projection and movement). And at the end of the night you might well have found yourself collaborating with the person sitting next to you to create your own piece of dance (mine involved hugs and cheered me up immeasurably).
The main show came in three parts. Nina Kov’s Copter is an intriguing piece, which pairs up dancer Rosie Terry and a remote controlled toy helicopter (expertly operated by Jack Bishop) for a strangely moving duet. At first defensive towards this intrusive, buzzing presence, then increasingly fascinated, Terry moves mostly low to the ground, in contrast to the helicopter’s soaring acrobatics, which includes a bravura upside-down display for its ‘solo’. Their shifting relationship is punctuated by more menacing incarnations: a large black shadow of a ‘copter on the floor; the appearance of a drone with mounted camera. Although Kov’s choreography for Terry sometimes feels a little underdeveloped, the premise of the piece is interesting enough to keep you watching – and the quirkily engaging characterisation of the helicopter just through its movement is surprisingly charming.
Sonata In Three Movements, by Cornelia Voglmayr, presents a musician and dancer in conversation; Benjamin Hooper’s violinist shaping Elisa Vassena’s movements – at one point creating a Man Ray-like tableau by holding up his violin to her extended back as she sits facing away from us on his knees – then being instructed by her in what sounds like a parody of rehearsal instruction (‘perhaps you want your pelvis to come out of your mouth’, ‘I want to see you reach China with your heels’). His game attempts to follow such instructions while still playing result in comical contortions. Curled up together at the end, they dissect the experience, Hooper mildly bewildered. It’s a gently amusing exercise that doesn’t quite maintain its momentum.
Tim Casson’s own Fiend is a different prospect, though. Based on Nijinsky’s Afternoon of a Faun, it sees Casson explore the possibilities of video projection by having his own image multiplied and manipulated through a live feed projected on the back wall. In person on the stage, he is a solo performer; on the screen he is interacting with delayed virtual images of himself repeating segments of the piece. Careful choreography means ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ Cassons split and merge with a freewheeling sense of joy. When the other images fade away, though, the mood changes – Casson, alone, is suddenly inhibited by the presence of the camera that previously gave him such pleasure; now the sense of being watched by it is overbearing. It’s a visually arresting work that, on a wider level, is a thoughtful consideration of the dilemmas of the digital age’s freedoms and oppressions.