Corali with invited guests Thick & Tight
Technicolour Everyday, Adieu, Dreams of Flying (Re-Worked), and Under Curve, Over Curve
London, The Place
30 March 2019
In an evening of art, dance and humour, Corali Dance Company’s performance at The Place is full of surprises. For its 30th anniversary this extraordinary company celebrates with two mixed-media solos, an integrated ensemble performance entitled Technicolour Everyday and a new work, Adieu, by charismatic guest artists Thick & Tight.
Over the years Corali, directed by Sarah Archdeacon and associate directors Jacobus Flynn and Bridget Chew has become known for its imaginative, art-influenced work created by dancers with learning disabilities. Always ambitious in their vision, setting high production values and innovative integrations of art, dance and film, the directors and dancers create work that is distinct and unique. And this latest show didn’t disappoint. Although watching the first half I’m distracted by some noisy members of the audience, the performers are impressively unfazed and carry on with professional calmness and commitment.
A stunning solo by Corali’s Paul Davidson opens the show, choreographed by Flynn and with a sound score by Daniel Weaver. Here out of a blanket of thick smoke, Davidson rises and falls. His undulating body at times seems to float just above the mist or between the horizontal columns of light that zig-zag across the space. Momentum builds and he moves fast and fluidly with an urgency that intrigues. Dreams of Flying (Re-Worked) exposes Davidson as a dancer to look out for.
Bethan Kendrick is clear and pragmatic in Under Curve, Over Curve, choreographed by herself and Flynn. From verbally introducing her work to showing us how it unfolds she is confident and focussed throughout. Using her own drawings as a starting point to build her solo she explores the relationship between paint on paper and movement in space. As she translates each of her three paintings to dance, she exposes her process such as painted curves which prompt an elbow dance, or adding on shapes when she likes to create something more lyrical. Daniel Weaver, who is also present on stage with his laptop, intervenes with his hypnotic music score and projections that reveal Kendrick’s drawings and writing. What is particularly engaging is how both connect to each other – ever watchful, sensitive to each other’s needs, effectively collaborative.
Daniel Hay-Gordon & Eleanor Perry aka Thick & Tight tend to exhilarate with their fabulously risky, bohemian flair and witty interpretations of unusual topics. They straddle many artistic boundaries and Adieu created for Corali is a hectic fusion of art installation, performance art, dance and music.
Celebrating the life and work of Derek Jarman, the piece subtly references many things associated with the artist/film-maker/gardener/writer’s life: beauty, nature, loss, the passing of time and his famous film Blue (1993). Performed by the full cast of Corali plus Perry and Hay-Gordon themselves all dressed in red, Adieu is a visually arresting work framed by the ominous blue rectangle projected against the cyclorama like a window to death; its dominating presence designed to remind us of Jarman’s struggles with terminal illness. From the meditative promenades across the stage as the performers appear with red balloons or holding abstract paintings to the frantic, elfin dance sequences or huddles of swarming fish that suggest an underwater garden, Adieu is elemental and fluctuating; conveying dreams and Jarman’s subconscious mixed with wildlife from his garden and toxic waste from the sea. An emotional feeling of transience is further fuelled by Stockhausen’s wind quartet music of the same name. While some of the imagery is impossible to read and at times just pretentiously strange, the reassuringly down-to-earth manner in which the performers interact with each other and objects keeps us riveted.
The evening closes with Technicolour Everyday a light-hearted and personal response to post-war film musicals. Members of Corali inspired by the colourful optimism of the likes of Judy Garland, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, pursue their own journeys into 50’s musical glamour.
Getting us audience members warmed up, Housni Hassan (DJ) asks us to pass his hat to Isabel Alverez at the end of the row. This happens a few times until we’re definitely in the right mood to watch an ecstatic and idiosyncratic dance extravaganza by all to Judy Garland’s Get Happy. Music however is distorted, phased out or repeated making us believe that we are in another big collective dream. This is followed by Jackie Ryan and Daniel Hay-Gordon’s touchingly comical duet to Fred Astaire’s I Won’t Dance in which Ryan’s determined character persuades the reluctant Hay-Gordon that dancing with her will be a good thing. And it is! When Graham Evans, splendid in tux, scarf and red sequined top hat, leads the dance in Frank Sinatra’s Theme from New York, New York, his honest charm and lack of arrogance makes him all the more watchable.
Juxtaposed with these joyful musical numbers and to remind us that Corali’s work is never merely entertaining nor straightforwardly linear, are scenes from the dancer’s own colourful imaginations – landscapes of golden coloured sunflower fields through which they roll and dive. While overall the piece feels a bit disjointed, the infectious enthusiasm of the dancers gels it together.
Even as I leave the show not really having understood every bit of it, I’m touched by the multi-skilled performers and their unforced honesty. I also marvel at the collective and individual input into each work and the sense that this is a productive and happy company.