A strange sense of circularity was aligned to this one-off evening, presented in a duo of duets. To begin with, this dance was brought to The Place courtesy of Aerowaves, the cross-border platform of performance opportunities for emerging choreographers across Europe. Both works were part of the Aerowaves Twenty 18 Spring Forward Festival, held in Sofia. And, Aerowaves, of course, was founded, in 1997, by contemporary dance producer, John Ashford, during his time as theatre director of The Place. Fast forward another 20 years and Ashford remains director of Aerowaves, having stood down from his role at The Place, in 2009.
In the noughties, it was common for The Place’s annual Resolution festival – another platform for emerging choreographers – to feature crossover performances from Aerowaves and that was another circular implant to the evening, since the programme had the inevitable feel of a Resolution show (or, at least, two-thirds of one, since such nights invariably comprise a trio of unrelated works).
And, thirdly, there was the circularity of confusion since the works were performed in the reverse order to that printed in the programme. Since they were both essentially duets without any linear narrative that could have been tricky!
The presence of just one woman was the giveaway to the programme being presented the wrong way around to that advertised. Martha Pasakopoulou is one half of arisandmartha, alongside Aris Papadopoulos, and touching.just is their first attempt at working together (thus proving the experimental credentials of Aerowaves – I wondered how choreographers get chosen with no prior work upon which to base an application). It is a work that revolves around a circuit (more circularity in the motion trajectory) as the pair – kitted out in colourful, casual sports wear, vivid greens and blues – shuffle along like two ducks uncomfortably negotiating the gym, in a highly idiosyncratic style of short steps, arms drawn back and elbows closely tucked into their sides.
touching.just could be a commentary on exercise since the pair engage in a series of episodic events, such as a martial arts sequence where they throw punches and kicks at each other, which the other partner avoids. Their episodes seem to be a series of games, bound together by the insistent, instrumental rhythms of The Doors’ touch me (I don’t remember the vocals).
There is a strong synergy of purpose and personal chemistry between the pair and I found myself rooting for their various encounters to rise above an awkward beginning into something more profound. At around 20 minutes, their piece was concise and arresting without over-reaching into that frequently inhabited territory of more-is-less. For a first work together it showed great promise. Someone in the Aerowaves office clearly has the knack of spotting talent from an application form.
This was followed by Andrea Costanzo Martini’s enigmatically-entitled Scarabeo, Angles and the Void, which also articulated an imaginative spark but suffered (albeit, only slightly) from what I describe as the false ending; i.e there is a point (here about 90% of the way through the 35 minute work) at which it could and, perhaps, should have ended with a more appropriate overall impact (with both dancers moving diagonally upstage as if in an imaginary tunnel, heading towards an indistinct smoky haze).
Both the choreographer, Martini, and his fellow performer – Avidan Ben Giat – have a performance background in Batsheva Dance Company and with Ohad Naharin’s Gaga movement language (indeed, Martini has been a Gaga instructor since 2007). This brings an earnest physicality and highly disciplined, clearly codified actions to their inter-related movement, which is such precisely co-ordinated partnering that it seems to cross a border into hand-to-hand acrobatics. The movement material is diverse – I recall one-leg balances, lunges, strong lifts and throughout there is an overarching imagery of electricity pulsing through the two guys’ muscles with strong contractions and immediate releases seeming to send shock waves through their skin.
Both men have a charismatic presence and Martini, in particular, has an expressive clown-like ability to show humour and pathos in alternate moments. There is a lot of movement-enhanced humour, which keeps up an arresting momentum. An enhanced visual spectacle is enriched by the costumes (designed by Nir Benita and Idan Lederman), including electric blue, shiny tunics, apparently skirted but – on closer inspection – tight tops with very baggy shorts.
As in touching.just, here was an imaginative array of movement episodes brought to the audience by excellent performers who do so much more than dance. After all these years, here is evidence – if any were needed – that the Aerowaves experiment continues to showcase great talent.