Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Dance Enigma


Joanna Young , Wyeside Arts Centre , February 28, 2014
Recall by Joanna Young In her sparse programme notes, emerging choreographic talent Joanna Young tells us that she is revisiting an earlier work called "PenGwyn" and using it as the starting point for this re-working with a new cast of performers called "Recall", which showed on 22nd February at Wyeside Arts Centre in Mid Wales, during her Spring tour of Wales.

The dance begins in stillness and silence - a very long stillness in very low light when we take in the setting: a strange, tall bee-hive like structure to the left, four dancers standing in a row to the right - they range in height from small to very tall, two women in almost jet-black dresses, two men in almost jet black suits - all barefoot.

They begin to move, each in their own world and space. The sound score (put together by Felipe Sousa) begins, increasing imperceptibly in depth and complexity with the movement, never intrusive but marrying cleverly with the dance. The dancers make geometric journeys into the space. They un-stack the "bee-hive" and place its different sized sections of mini rostra precisely and strategically around the performing area, creating multiple levels. The lighting and setting (Gerald Tyler), though apparently simple, are in fact as detailed in their execution as the dance, subtly and easily blending into the work so as to be integral to its development.

The dancers - Makiko Aoyama, Richard Ingram-Dodd, Innpang Ooi and Louise Tanoto - are intensely focussed and perform Young's work with precise intelligence. The dancing surprises by being both fluid and staccato - two opposing dynamics - super liquid bursts of upper body movement combined with soft jumps, sometimes on and off the rostra, that suddenly and unexpectedly stop - and then start again - flow interrupted. Gradually the dancers begin to interact - or more exactly - the dancing begins to interact, because this happens in a strictly kinetic way, there is nothing emotional in the exchanges, rather the movement (gestural, with precise angles of head, neck, hands or limbs) affecting and influencing that of the duetting performer.

These interactions are strange, creating fleeting images and impressions of dialogues, perhaps even the "landscapes" mentioned by Young in her programme notes, inexplicable dialogues and landscapes of the purely physical, a sort of surrealism in movement. The extreme difference in height of the protagonists is sometimes used to great effect, especially between the tallest and the smallest dancer, for example in a bizarre lift where the (male) tallest dancer simply walks onto the shoulder of the smallest (female) dancer from the highest rostrum, she supports his body on one shoulder while he maintains his up-right stance as she walks away with him, later lowering her body vertically in a sort of "pliť" until his feet meet the floor again.

There appear to be three distinct sections, the second seeming to contain the most clear references to the re-working of the PenGwyn piece. Now the dancers work more as a group in great and sometimes comic detail: head, hands, body and even a solitary eye conveying something of the quirky, restricted movement of those endearing, flightless sea birds. The intense concentration from the dancers and the mesmerising, almost hypnotic focus of the performance draws us, the audience, into the "vortex" of the piece. When, on occasion, the intense concentration dips or the music stops momentarily, our heightened aural sensitivity makes us aware of every sound - water running in another part of the building, the rumbling of someone's stomach - the collective breathing of an audience completely rapt.

In the third section the energy level steps up and the tension between the performers, as well as the exquisite detail of the movement language, is sometimes lost. The repeating of similar sequences in different situations begins to suggest a sort of "Huis Clos" dream or nightmare, where this dance of surreal, kinetic "landscapes" is eternally caught in an ever repeating cycle.

As the dance winds down, the "beehive" is stacked again, the dancers return to their height graduated row and the light dies. Aside from this, there's no resolution, no why or wherefore, Joanna Young's "Recall" just is. An enigmatic investigation into pure movement and perhaps the beginning of a long and interesting creative journey.

You can see "Recall" at Sherman Cymru on the 28th February and at Theatr Harlech on the 1st of March both at 7.30PM.

Reviewed by: Jenny March

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