This triple bill marks 2Faced Dance Company’s 20th anniversary. EVERYTHING [but the girl] – a nod to the West Midlands troupe’s setup (female artistic director, all-male ensemble) – presents two new pieces alongside a reworked number from 2011. With its tense atmosphere and searching choreography, the latter, 7.0 – Reduxed, gives a good idea of what Tamsin Fitzgerald’s company is all about.
Lightning strobes reveal five dancers covered in dust, dazed as they stagger through a decimated terrain. Fitzgerald actually created the work after a humanitarian aid visit to Haiti in the wake of the 2010 earthquake. Members of Birmingham Contemporary Music Group dot the back of the stage, rattling off an urgent score by Alex Baranowski that guides the group through a series of cartwheels, headstands, diving somersaults and gymnastic rebounds. There’s a heavy breakdance flavour, but the dancing also takes in ram-style headlocks and lyrical folk steps. Powerful sequences emerge: Louis Parker-Evans in a spinning solo, his palms outstretched; a body-pumping group phrase with long lines and burning contractions.
The disparate vocabularies don’t always gel, but they register profoundly when you consider them against the landscape – it’s as if the characters are trying out different ways to make sense of their new world. The mode is almost stream of consciousness, with a wash of sensations and sentiments streaming across the choreography. The music too cycles through various vibes, from pounding battle hymns to slow, poignant phrases. A sense of gritty determination threads it all together, easing the clashes in style.
Fitzgerald’s Hollow in a World Too Full, performed by Will Hodson on opening night, also reckons with a turbulent setting – in this case, the roil of crime and pollution that riled the protagonist of the 1976 film Network. Dressed in a black kilt, Hodson reels like a warrior in dim, smoky light, rolling, teetering, swinging, arching, swaying and thrusting. There’s a mystic edge to his barrelling leaps and rollicking arms, like he’s summoning primal forces to conquer the uncertainty before him. Pensive pauses disrupt the action, but it’s never long before we’re back to full-throttle ferocity, egged on by live strings played over a throbbing soundtrack. It’s Fitzgerald’s first solo work, and while the connection to Network seems contrived, there’s heart in the edgy tone, and in Hodson’s emotive intensity too.
A new work from Fleur Darkin (former artistic director of Scottish Dance Theatre) opens the bill, inspired by a David Foster Wallace essay about his experience covering the Canadian (tennis) Open in 1995. Darkin’s programme notes for The Qualies draw a comparison between the commitments of dancers and athletes, and speak to the dynamism of Wallace’s writing, but these thoughts go unsaid in the work itself. Instead, we see four dancers fiddle with tennis balls while a voiceover reads excerpts from the essay in question. Most of the choreography involves juggling the balls or pelting them at each other; there are also a few points where they balance them on their heads and try to stand on them without slipping. These larks are tedious and have the unfortunate effect of diminishing the dance that does eventually emerge, making it seem too little, too late.
There are bright spots, including Cameron Woolnough’s velvet cascade of slides and tai chi lunges. But the lyricism of Wallace’s prose – especially when he laments his “pathetic, deluded pride” in assuming that he, a regional player in his youth, might possibly hold his own against the lower-ranked pros – is the main point of interest here.