What do you expect to see when you go to a dance show? Dancers dancing, bodies moving in time, some kind of accompanying music? Making their debut at Heads Up Festival, LO:CUS Dance Theatre celebrate their first year as a company, with a varied programme of new and reworked pieces, presented to a packed house at Kardomah 94.
During the last twelve months, the newly-formed company of Steph Potter, Tamar Draper, Lottie Hanson, Carla Morrill have sought collaborations with filmmakers and musicians; creating and showcasing new work at festivals; working creatively in community and health settings and driving dance and dancers forward, with regular contemporary classes.
By working with renowned choreographers such as Lea Anderson – who can forget the lurid lime green costumes from ‘Flick‘ at Freedom Festival – scooping the Audience award at Hull Dance Prize, LO:CUS, together with other dance professionals, are waking up the creative movers and shakers, to the huge untapped potential for dance development, and the opportunity to put dance centre stage in Hull.
The film ‘This Floating Stage‘ was a fly-on-the-wall documentary short, focussing on how one particular dance came about. Through improvisation and collaboration – unedited conversations and interactions – a sequence is worked and reworked, concepts developed: a common language is created and the new work is borne. The film is narrated through an original verse, that speaks to a larger idea surrounding the creative process.
I learned more about dance in the opening minutes as company member Steph tries out ideas alone in the studio space: shoulder, elbow, knee, experimenting in real time, how and why the sequences and shapes go together: asking questions of her body. There’s a moment where she rubs her leg, massaging a tired muscle, that reminds the viewer that this is about the body and if you put strains on the body, it has real consequences. A lot of creativity takes place in the mind, but dance is very much about the body. That may seem obvious, but I still feel it needs to be said.
‘We haven’t thought about spacing,’ is a deconstruct of dance, that reveals the special language described as ‘ridiculous mind-chatter’ utterances such as, “cheese slice… feed the cat” that dancers use when preparing for a performance. Like photographic snapshots a spotlight picks out the dancers in various positions, then, addressing an invisible choreographer and also each other, the beginning of the dance is introduced.
I really like the attitude and interaction between the dancers, the thinly disguised scornful look as an error is made: further blurring the lines between what is performance, made to look real and what is real, made to look like performance. Without prior knowledge of the metalanguage within the piece and the slightly shortened version shown tonight, audiences could mistake the work for actual rehearsal rather than performance: you may ask whether the punch-line comes too late.
I was delighted to see the introduction of spoken word in the LO:CUS programme. Nora Hanson poet and published author – grandmother of company member Lottie Hanson – delivers three poems: the first is reflective, the second, rebellious. In the third poem she is joined on stage by Lottie who interprets the lines of verse into expressive movements: it feels very personal and private.
As I continue to witness more contemporary dance, I was pleased to see that I recognised the different language, the distinct voice in the Ceyda Tanc inspired piece. The rework of ‘Volta‘ – one of the Brighton company’s leading pieces – came from a different place, it stood alone and stood out, from the rest of the programme. The mood, the intensity the previous informality all changed; tempos shifted dramatically stalling the movement, regimented sections then stood out even more, against the break-out sequences. The minute I wrote ‘cauldron‘ – some metaphor for contained intensity – one dancer steps outside of the enclosure and breaks free. The image that remains with me, is the way the three were positioned towards the end, the curious way each body was linked to the other, not holding on to, but still connected: a still image.
The accompanying sheet describes ‘Volta‘ as being about, how in Turkish prisons the act of turning your back – during walking exercises – on a fellow inmate, is seen as a sign of great disrespect. This description reminds me of the memorable scene in the Alan Parker film, Midnight Express – where hero Billy imposing a sense of self and freewill, refuses to walk the wheel in the same direction as the other prisoners.
Both the Lea Anderson and the Ceyda Tanc inspired works have been brought about as a result of Hull Dance’s new professional development programme.
The finale came in the form of a tryptic in the cryptically titled ‘Meet me in the place between right and wrong‘. The piece can be interpreted in different ways, but I see it as being allegories of love: we begin blind to love: we embark on much love; brief sparks interchangeable; then love grows stale or intensifies to dangerous levels. The second sequence begins to hint at the violence to come, as partners are pushed out and away, with increasing regularity and force.
The ending is deliciously malevolent and pure cinema. I could feel the mood in the room heighten as the depiction of hopeless and destructive love, plays out. One audience member later described the work as being, a comment on different aspects of domestic violence and I can clearly see why that interpretation. As the piece develops – as I hope it will – even more darkness could be drawn out of those final desperate moments. It is in these moments the ‘theatre’ in the company’s name really comes to the fore and leaves a lasting impression.
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