Place Resolution 2018
Watts Dance: Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
Grov Productions: Her past in their present now
Duwane Taylor: It’s Time to Speak
London, The Place
27 February 2018
Foteini Christofilopoulou’s gallery of Lather. Rinse. Repeat. images
I’m diving in late to the Place’s Resolution festival of new dance this year but picking up the thread with a company I saw making their professional debut at last year’s festival – Watts Dance – and seeing how they’ve moved along. Their Lather. Rinse. Repeat. is about social media and its impact on everyday life – topical and relevant to everybody in the audience. It uses four female dancers, minimal props, colourful everyday costumes and partially live music to go through a day in the life of young women, permanently glued to the wider world. It starts with brushing teeth, finishes with clubbing and in between has them sitting on a row of chairs, each in their own silo and yet constantly chatting, not always direct, but via mobiles phones or anything to hand if they have the urge to pass on some message. It’s rather larky but there are also some more poignant times and attempts to show unhappiness, manipulation and the support that comes from friendship. The conceit is that the day is shown three times and the group steadily becomes more tired and disillusioned, if it ends on a high that made the audience laugh. It crams a lot into its 20 minutes, probably too much, and it would be nice to explore some aspects in more depth rather than rapidly cantering on. But I like it that Cecilia Watts thinks about the audience and what they will get out of seeing her work – currently she is channelling Matthew Bourne’s approach to dance rather than Richard Alston’s and in that respect has made useful strides in the year.
Brita Grov (in the guise of Grov Productions) used five female dancers to mine her “personal experiences of pressure on the female body”. Her past in their present now was scheduled to last 25 minutes and it rather lost me when for the first 5 minutes all we got was a back view of the dancers, upstage in gloom, black costumes on black background, to atmospheric electronic thrumming and some occasional twitching. The worry was that there would be 20 more minutes of such slow and repetitive introspection. Not so, because the piece opens out and we get the very opposite of pressure, delivering naval contemplation – big dollops of zombie-like thrashing abandon. There is a lot going on and some exciting tumbling moves that could be honed further. And after what seemed like 15 or 20 minutes overall it was all abruptly over. Not sure if I learnt much about pressure on a dancer’s body and the start could certainly be edited, but Grov has choreographic imagination, I think. Interestingly, post seeing the show and writing the above, I learn that the piece was crowdfunded and there Grov talks much more about the pressure behind it all – her being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as a young girl. That might have been good to include in the brief programme note and rather puts it all in better context.
Duwane Taylor’s It’s Time to Speak couldn’t be more different from the bodily abandon we’d just witnessed – as the title implies it’s about words. BIG, powerful, emotive words and it’s them rather than any hip hop or krumping that one remembers. It’s a piece about the injustices and racial violence routinely dolled out to those of non-white ethnicity and black people particularly. It starts with him lip-syncing to many stirring speeches, notably by Martin Luther King, Obama and even Trump, punctuating them for emphasis with hip hop moves. But his point is that, despite such moving turns of phrase, nothing much has changed and he goes on to make his own speech, behind a strongly lit lectern. The words are gripping, eloquent and ferocious in making their point about change, but also clear that it’s words that should make for a more just world and not violent confrontation. I would like to have seen more dance involved in Speak but you can’t get away from the fact that this is powerful theatre that left a lump in many of our throats at the end.