Bellyflop: The Belly of the Beast


The night opened with a wild plethora of imagery and tentative brashness demonstrated to us by Alexandrina Hemsley and Jamila Johnson-Small in 'O'.

The piece is segmented in a way that keeps you on your toes. It gives you a commentary on the process of making the work, and the distractions that come within the act of starting something new. This then somehow blends into themes of feminine sexuality, and how it is observed. The opening scenario is the moment which stayed with me most: the simple but 'in your face' image of both performers on all fours writhing and articulating in velour jeans and rubber boots, while the soundtrack tells us "I'm gunna take that bitch to college." You could say the 'in your face' provocative imagery is really Bellyflop's strength, for example the unexpected beauty of lip syncing to 'Addicted to Bass' in a long straggly wig. However, there are a lot of ideas to fit into one piece, and it becomes a little too busy at times.

Hemsley and Johnson-Small have a magnetic energy in both their performance quality and their creative partnership, and they are definitely a pair to look out for in future.

The second piece of the program was Improvisation by Seke Chimutengwende and Charlotte Ashwell, who bounce effortlessly off each other. They have an intelligent yet natural relationship which feels safe while still daring and compelling. This was a perfect addition to the program, and cleverly structured.

For the most part of The Mermaid and The Hammer, I was a frustrated audience member, trying to make sense out of two woollen mermaids who were nonchalantly banging a hammer. However after this continued for 5-10 minutes, it was the audience's reaction which became more interesting to observe as it fluctuated. The program note reads: 'These performances are an invitation to inhabit the moment before laughter, that delicious suspension where nonsense and sense, the vague and the purposeful, meet and dance together.' The Mermaid and The Hammer was difficult, but interesting viewing.

The audience then exited the auditorium to discover a giant glittery cake in the foyer and the final offering of the night from Eleanor Sikorski. The sound of bells faintly emanated from within the structure, before Sikorski burst from the top, showering the audience with marshmallows, glitter, love-hearts, and condoms. She rotated on top of the cake, singing in tune with her children's bell set, asking awkward questions to individuals, and throwing yet more glitter. Sikorski's performance was perhaps the most assured of the night. Hilarious and beautiful, poignant yet self mocking, and performed with the audience control of a seasoned comic.

Wild Card - a new initiative by Sadlers Wells has two more evenings coming up in February and March 2013

12 Feb 2013 - Dan Canham:

14 Mar 2013 - Ivan Blackstock:

'O' by Alexandrina Hemsley and Jamila Johnson-Small will be performed again at Michaelis Theatre, Roehampton 31st January 6pm

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Batsheva Dance Company, not once but twice!

Within a week, I have had the honour of seeing Batsheva Dance Company twice in the space of a few days. When I first saw Batsheva at Sadler’s Wells in 2008, how I whined and moaned about not being able to see them again. Four years later, Batsheva Dance Company performances are a regular occurrence and not at all taken for granted.

My first viewing was Deca Dance at the Jerusalem Theatre. First of all, I was surprised that we were to see the Batsheva Company rather than Batsheva Ensemble who have just returned back to Israel from touring Deca Dance. As we entered the theatre, one of my Gaga teachers was on stage, dancing, warming up, teasing the audience: the first sign that this was no ordinary dance show! Also he was in the famous black trousers, shoes and white shirt. Were they to do my favourite section?! After a brief floory across the stage, with dancers darting and pulsing as if you were watching cars pass on a motorway, the lights dimmed. The audience cheered, clapped, danced in their seats (Israeli dance audiences are very different to British audiences). The lights went up and there it was: a semi-circle of chairs, dancers sat in suits with their heads down... Echad Mi Yodea! Starting Deca Dance with Echad Mi Yodea is like starting Swan Lake with the Black Swan's 32 fouettés en tournant (turns): how will Batsheva keep up the high energy and power?! Easy!

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Resolution! Ieva Kuniskis, Ceyda Tanc Dance, NRG Dance Company

While Resolution! provides a platform for people's first choreographic steps, last night highlighted the difference between those who have started out as choreographers, and dancers who are dabbling in choreography.

Ieva Kuniskis's Gone To Get Milk could be described as a work about three disturbed characters, each in their own way. And a lot of oranges.

Gone To Get Milk starts entertainingly with Helen Aschauer running onstage, dropping oranges everywhere before running into the wings, followed by the sounds of urinating and a toilet flushing. We're introduced to each character in turn: Helen Aschauer battling strong emotions while talking to herself in German; Zoe Georgallis, who resorts to cleaning the floor to counter her nervous madness, and the wonderful Charlie Cooper Ford, who walks onstage apparently in mid-conversation, possibly with himself, and possibly about the orange in his hand. This develops into a dynamic solo about letting the orange go or eating it, and eventually settling for tucking it under his chin, appealing for the audience's applause. Charlie's character is perhaps the most accessible of the three, as he relies less on signature moves which don't necessarily convey their meaning.

The three dancers work together extremely well, and Gone To Get Milk successfully creates entertaining relationships between each of them - even if Charlie Ford has a bad habit of always dropping Zoe Georgallis.

Physical theatre work typically neglects choreography, so it's rare to see a work which is both experimental as well as choreographically strong. Even rarer is a piece which is 25 minutes long and doesn't feel its length: the characters and their interactions are entertaining enough that the time flies quickly, and this could easily be the start of a much longer piece for Kuniskis. For starters, we need to see more of Helen Aschauer, and secondly, Gone To Get Milk deserves a stronger ending.

Ceyda Tanc spent four months training at The State Turkish Conservatoire for Music and Dance in Izmir, Turkey, following her graduation from Roehampton University, and she has since been working on creating a movement style which draws on both contemporary dance and traditional Turkish dance.

Volta opens with dramatic flair as occasional bursts of light show dancers walking, duetting, or holding poses. The programme notes refer to a prison walking exercise, and there are a number of walking scenes at the start of Volta, interspersed between sections of dance, and also to clarify the tense relationships between the dancers.

Ceyda Tanc has created very confident choreography with committed performances by all her dancers, effectively using lighting to create a shadowy atmosphere, compounded by Seb Jaeger's evocative score. Volta is impressive in several ways, especially the use of group scenes with her dancers almost perfectly in sync - something even the larger, well-known dance companies struggle to achieve. And we all know that time and money are short when it comes to creating Resolution! works, but it's always a joy to watch a well-rehearsed piece. Ceyda Tanc is definitely onto something.

There's something about performing a work in concentration camp costumes two days before the Holocaust Memorial Day. And after seeing several Resolution! shows, opening scenes in blackout start to lose their novelty. Fast.

Nathan Goodman joined Richard Alston Dance Company after graduating from LCDS in 2009, and interest in his first Resolution! work undoubtedly magnified after his electrifying performances in Martin Lawrance's Madcap in October 2012: after finally seeing him come alive as a dancer, would Elsewhere give us more of an insight into his inspirations as a dancer?

Unfortunately, that didn't really happen: from an awkward Cunningham-influenced beginning, Elsewhere only really found its pace once it moved into street dance territory, transforming Theo Lowe and Nathan Goodman, who seemed to be less comfortable with the more traditional choreography at the start. The sole highlights were a physical duet between Lowe and Goodman, and Goodman later performing a few pyrotechnics, but that was too little in a lengthy piece with lacklustre choreography and a soundtrack of a woman gasping.


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Resolution! Charlie Dixon Dance Company, Elena Jacinta, Alotta Fagina

Some emerging artists use Resolution! as a choreographic sandpit, and this evening was very much an example of that approach.

In the interval, Charlie Dixon explained that Long Road had been an opportunity for her to explore ideas and and ways of making work, without having fixed ideas about exactly what she wanted to achieve.

Long Road opened dramatically, with the faint outline of Robert Keates staggering, repeatedly falling, crawling and gasping in complete darkness, until he found his way to a spotlight and stood there, shaking, before collapsing again.

Long Road investigates the impact of war, and each of Dixon's dancers explored different aspects of this theme, with each dancer embodying a different response. Keates was clearly a soldier in combat, repeatedly on fire, as he dodged his way across the stage. Charlotte Pook's character was the most lyrical of the three, with fluid solos but prone to overbalancing, with occasional scenes of furiously scratching her ankle. An interesting device was Pook adopting Sarah Golding's angular and disjointed style of movement when close to her. These random solos were connected by group sections, bringing the characters and their movement back together.

Long Road is a work of many parts, exploring a wide range of styles and themes of possession. It draws its inspiration from extremely graphic photos from the Vietnam War, which did not lose their impact despite being displayed at reduced size during the performance. It's a strange work but engaging, and perhaps requires more than one viewing to make sense of the characters and scenes. 

The second exploratory work of the evening was Alotta Fagina's We're made of stories. Secrets are safe in stories, created by Hofesh dancers Karima El Amrani and Victoria Hoyland. El Amrani and Hoyland started by turning in a slow, crouched circle, slowly expanding their movement in small ways, building up their movement gradually.

At times We're made of stories seemed self-indulgent, with the dancers taking time to explore movement in its rawest forms; these scenes were less penetrable for the audience, contrasting with the more enjoyable scenes when the piece picked up pace and dynamism, mesmerising the audience.

It closed on a very poignant scene, with Hoyland in a handstand over El Amrani's head; the low lighting and haze made it hard for the audience to tell where individual limbs were, and which belonged to who.

The unexpected success of the evening was Elena Jacinta's Pieces of Mosaic, proving that less is more, and that simple understated works can be far more effective than more elaborate ones.

Jacinta's programme notes explained that Pieces of Mosaic was an exploration of the idea, expectations and experiences of performance; this was conveyed through solos by three women of very different movement qualities and personalities, with few interactions between them.

Pieces of Mosaic opened with a very fluid solo by Tomomi Kosano, showing what a beautiful and graceful dancer she is, which contrasted sharply with Carys Staton's more hesitant and poised solo, drawing out movements as though savouring each one, in an almost contemplative way, and later exploring the stage and her relationship to it. In further contrast, Natalia Iwaniec appeared to be playing a neverending round of charades, drawing on a wide range of random mimes.

Natalia Iwaniec's character demonstrated performance in its basest form, luxuriating being in the spotlight, complete with faux-sensual solos. Tomomi Kosano's performances were beautiful to watch, especially when repeating one of Carys Staton's solos, however Carys Staton - recently seen in Russell Maliphant's The Rodin Project - was by far the most engaging performer, with her perpetually concerned and anxious facial expressions and quirky responses. Well done to Elena Jacinta and her dancers.

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Resolution! Arc, Tara D'Arquian, Sounding Motion

Eighty-one works form the line up for the Resolution! platform, a chance for new and newer choreographers to engage with creating work through a supportive network of people. The mixed bill offered in last night’s programme formed an eclectic focus for artistic merit, appealing to three different tastes in choreographic creation and execution.

Leading was Arc’s A Sense of Beauty. A work appealing to and using the unique physiology of each dancer, the piece occurs mainly within the confines of one structure, created by two ladders with an adjoining board. The piece was emotionally endearing, creating characterizations through music, dance style and costume. Such a varying array of ideas had its charm, but unfortunately felt one-dimensional at times, the dancers pushed toward one movement dynamic within the confines of the concept. The live instrumentalist, while adding interest, had a confusing part in the storyline and once extracted, showed no more involvement in what was occurring on stage. The inclusive nature of the work in the end was heart-warming and demonstrates potential for all bodies in the realm of dance.

Tara D’Arquian’s May Our Bodies Become Bodies Again arrived at an emotional opposite for the first piece, a testament to how mixed these nights can be. The audience is used as a visual perspective pivot, technical hands change a frame that sets up a "room", a movement phrase is repeated over and over, infrequently embellished on but continuously portrayed with the same intensity. With perspectives changing, the story for the audience grows, the dancers on a set loop that could either represent days passing, relationship continuity, or several different couples. There were The Truman Show-esque moments created through this repetition, a hypnotic sameness that was effective overall. When the set finally stopped changing, other dancers were added, mimicking costume and phrase but performing with differing details. The splash of the different was welcome, but confused the unfolding nature of the story. Still, there was enough visual intrigue and reassurance of what could be seen to create a piece that was visually compelling.

The third and final piece of the night was an unrelenting portrayal of labour under the sun, demonstrated to the backdrop of Sicillian folk songs. Sounding Motion’s Naturale pared back choreography, costume and music to create the insistent pace to coincide with the concept. The hypnotic development of movement achieved an overall movement rhythm for the work, though the continuously developing solos appeared to be somewhat calculated and were only punctuated with a few (more satisfying) moments of unity. The live musicians were divided on stage causing a split focus, and this coupled with the split within the dancers was prone to create an excess of activity. A smaller space may have developed the intimacy that lacked in this piece, connecting the soulfulness of the Sicillian lyrics, the musicians and dancers on a more coherent level.

The diversity of the works shown as Wednesday’s edition of Resolution! demonstrated the assortment of ideas forming in the minds of a creative hub of budding choreographers. The complexity of structures and concepts beginning to be realized in these works has the potential to distil into something very compelling. In the spirit of works in progress, this mixed bag has shown varying strength in physical, emotional and conceptual ideas and continues to resound how exciting this dance platform can be.

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Resolution! Georgia Tegou, WatkinsDance, Matthew Robinson

Some evenings at Resolution! are better than others. Unfortunately, Saturday's triple bill did not fall into this category.

Georgia Tegou's Yet Another Day was the product of a collaboration between Roehampton University and Royal Academy of Music students, which might have been an interesting experiment for both parties, however the result was absolute torture by music: avant-garde flute music, with an overreliance on high-pitched screeches. The agony of having to listen to this for approximately 15 minutes detracted from Tegou's choreography, which focussed on very basic movement with an improvised feel. Although there was little in the choreography to hold interest, much less overpower the flautists' cacophony, Tegou did display a skill at creating arresting tableaux, from the opening scene of four women holding balls of string attached to chairs, to the final scene with one dancer, supported by the others, about to fall into an apparent abyss.

Anna Watkins received Arts Council funding to tour a full evening of her work, including Inseparable, so it was a surprise to see her return to Resolution!, especially with this duet.

From a promising start, Inseparable quickly degenerated into little more than an ongoing tussle between the two dancers, with occasional interesting ideas and moves, sadly outnumbered by the rest of the uninspired movement. It seems to be a characteristic of Watkins's choreographic style to draw on multiple dance styles, which makes it harder for her to define her own choreographic voice, which would strengthen her work significantly.

Despite several performances of Inseparable, it still needs considerable editing to remove unnecessary sections which add nothing to the story or the message of this work: duets can be fascinating, an opportunity for exploring creative ways of partnering (example: James Cousins' There We Have Been); it's a shame to see Inseparable fail to live up to its potential.

The final work of the evening - true to the adage of the best being saved for last - was Matthew Robinson's Vacant Skin, originally inspired by a short film he made last year, and aimed to explore to what extent people are defined by external imagery.

This was Robinson's first abstract Resolution! work, having created two previous theatrical works with fellow Scottish Dance Theatre dancer Toby Fitzgibbons. Vacant Skin was at its strongest with Robinson displaying his talent at intuitively creating ways of not only how to move, but also how to move the body, beautifully performed by fellow Scottish Dance Theatre dancers Eve Ganneau, Nicole Guarino and Naomi Murray.

It's an expectation that Resolution! performances are of works in progress, and Vacant Skin is a good example of this: some very good ideas, and some very good choreography and performances, but requiring further work before it can be the piece it deserves to be; in the meantime, Vacant Skin shows a hell of a lot of promise.


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Resolution! MonixArts, RK Dance, MurleyDance

One thing which many people from other artforms tend to overlook is exactly how much time and hard work it takes to create a work of dance - which is important to remember when comparing a finished piece to its trailer or rehearsal video. That's especially true for Resolution!, a season of creativity and creative twists and turns for new choreographers, so that the finished product is rarely what one expects.

We all love a good choreographed fight scene, don't we? How many of you are Buffy fans? MonixArts's work 'Nu.V.Na' (Nurture vs Nature) ostensibly explored dancers reacting to conflict, but in reality drew on Monica Nicolaides's judo and jiu-jitsu training by performing a full lexicon of martial arts moves. If there had been time, it would have been wonderful if Nicolaides's dancers could have spent some time inside a dojo: while the concept was admirable and interesting, the dancers lacked the technique, attack and conviction necessary to perform these moves as required.

That was only one aspect of 'Nu.V.Na', however: the dancers were far more comfortable and confident with the rest of Nicolaides's choreography, which better demonstrated her ability as an assured and talented choreographer.

And in the meantime, it was good to see that the costumes from Riccardo Buscarini's 'Athletes' were being put to good use! [Note: they were different costumes, just remarkably similar].

Ryota Kodera's 'Yamato - Nadeshiko' was an atmospheric exploration of Japanese geisha culture, using the lyricism of traditional Japanese movement to good effect, even from simple gestures. Using delicate choreography, Kodera's at-times complex choreography was deftly performed by all three dancers, especially by Tomomi Kosano.

Kodera's choreographic style was an intriguing blend of traditional Japanese movement and contemporary dance, but the audience would have benefitted from more specific explanations in the programme notes of what traditions and scenes Kodera was depicting, as the meaning was lost on much of the audience, and the choreography alone wasn't enough to sustain some people's interest.

The final work of the evening was MurleyDance's 'La Peau', a work inspired by iconic artwork and using iconic music: it could only bode well. And as Resolution! is all about diverse lineups and very mixed bills, why not have some ballet alongside faux martial arts and Japanese geisha?

La Peau was a work in four parts; as the piece progressed, the material improved, and David Murley's talent as a gifted and quirky storyteller overrode his choreographic ability. Reminiscent of Matthew Bourne's earlier works, Murley shows absolute commitment to detail and scene-setting - when was the last time you watched a 20-minute piece with peacock feathers, a Persian rug, a giant clam shell and a zimmer frame?!

The comic highlight of La Peau was 'Aging', inspired by Botticelli's 'Birth of Venus', accompanied by Janis Joplin's 'A Woman Left Lonely', which saw Lucy Casson as an aged crone, precariously perched behind a zimmer frame and insincerely chaperoned by Georgina Connolly and the wonderful Bianca Hopkins in trim red PVC minidresses, more concerned with their nails than with Casson's welfare - trying to trip her up with the giant clam shell at every opportunity.

La Peau offered Murley the opportunity to showcase a wide range of his choreographic talents, by creating four very differing scenes - including a solo for a smouldering bodybuilder in the final scene, who strips down to his dance belt - however Murley's ample choreographic abilities were overshadowed by his gift for creativity, characterisation and storytelling. Murley's is definitely a talent to be nurtured.

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Resolution! Chris Pavia, Tom Bowes Dance, Mazzilli Dance Theatre

The night of Tuesday 15th January at Resolution! 2013 opened with Chris Pavia's Captured by the Dark, a fitting title for this eerily-staged duet between dancers Hannah Sampson and Tomos Young (both of Stopgap Dance Company, as is Pavia).

A relationship is instantly set up between these two performers, the intensity of Young's gaze highlighted by Sampson covering her own eyes. There are human touches and subtle nuances of weariness or urgency that give a sense of real connection between the performers: a satisfying extra layer to the sometimes quite stark movement material.

Young’s physicality is eternally watchable, and with Sampson’s fluidity and natural energy, the two meet in some occasionally tentative, but often tender moments of contact and interaction. Such moments are highlighted to great effect by Sarah Gilmartin’s lighting design.

In an unexpected shift in energy fuelled by Dougal Irvine’s engulfing score, the work becomes somewhat cartoonesque. The two dancers do well to fill the stage, and there is a constant sense of there being more than just the two of them in the space.

In a circular structure, the piece calms once more, referencing earlier movement, now in a (quite possibly deliberate) unrelenting way. The final image is strong and memorable, an apt punctuation to this intriguing and carefully thought out piece by Pavia.

The shadowy visuals, sudden changes and stormy soundtrack are all themes which continue into the second piece of the night. Tom Bowes' Brute presents a quartet, satisfyingly united in their various black garments and boots, gradually dispersing from the downstage left spotlight. 

The dancers twitch and pull together and apart, through some almost stilted exchanges and some moments of real connection in unison. A recurring theme of hands reaching and plucking at the air relates perhaps to the sense of ‘decision and discovery’ detailed in the programme note, although there are times when this, and the periodic upward focus become affected and unexplained.

The piece is at its strongest when all four dancers move individually, but in close quarters and with real conviction. ‘Brute’ seems to end just as swiftly as it began, with a sense of things being left unseen or unsaid.

Mazzilli Dance Theatre’s For How Much begins (though we didn’t know it initially) with the audience being accosted by a comical, yet slightly unnerving and manic gentleman in the foyer during the interval. He ushers the already intrigued audience back into the auditorium where the stage holds eight performers, a pianist at his piano, and piles and piles of clothing.

The one male and six female dancers surround the man we first met in the foyer, and from this tumbling flock of bodies, troubled solos break out and return as the momentum builds to a fighting energy with satisfyingly messy exchanges of weight. Andy Higgs’ accompaniment to this, both live and recorded, is beautiful.

The juxtaposition of the comical and the sinister running side by side throughout this work is used to great effect, particularly in a colourful ‘family portrait’ moment, where fixed grins become manic and a dancers begin to paw at each other with increasing urgency.

The piece moves on at a pleasing pace, and is at its strongest in moments of suggestion relating to the themes of human trafficking and forced labour. One solitary dancer is burdened with piles of garments, and a fluid and feminine quintet displays further sensitive choreography by Annarita Mazzilli.

As the work draws to a close, the title ‘For How Much?’, is clearly referenced, as gradually every performer moves through the space with handfuls of coins: shaking, dropping, scrabbling, spinning, stealing, donating, caressing and rolling them until the one solitary dancer remains, still and alone.

I left feeling inexplicably haunted by this last piece; and with an overall sense of satisfaction from my first outing to this year’s Resolution! platform… I look forward to the next!

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Resolution! Liz Liew & Yuyu Rau, David Willdridge, Attach Dance Company

Last night's triple bill reinforced that Resolution! is ultimately about creating a space in which new and less-new choreographers can experiment artistically in a "safe" environment, largely consisting of family and friends, as we were reminded with Attach Dance Company's raucous welcome by the audience. Sometimes the results are less successful than others, but that's simply part of their process of developing as artists.

The feel of experimentation is especially true for Yuyu Rau, who has collaborated with musician Liz Liew for Snapshots, her third Resolution! creation, and the first one she has performed in herself. Beauty Unveiled, her 2010 Resolution! work, was a very polished piece, launching her distinctive Chinese-contemporary style, while her 2012 work, Beloved Emoh, was an extremely introspective and personal piece, and Snapshots explored the emotions surrounding a number of Liew's memories.

From the opening scene, where Rau appeared to be a delighted sprite in a Grecian red dress, with echoes of Isadora Duncan, we were taken through a range of mostly happy memories, although the most interesting parts of Rau's choreography were when she returned to her Chinese-influenced style of dance; her dramatic facial expressions during these sections was a reminder of Rau's ability to captivate the Sadler's Wells audience during her The Most Incredible Thing performances. These sections were all too brief, however, and by comparison, the rest of the choreography seemed to lack challenge and complexity.

Despite being 25 minutes in length, Snapshots could easily become a significantly longer work, with the wealth of Liew's memories - hinted at through her childhood snapshots at the end - to plunder, however Snapshots was made to feel longer than it actually was, with frequent costume changes and musical interludes and too-short scenes. Dennis Kwong Thye Lee's performance on the guzheng (Chinese zither) was breathtaking, and Rau is always an enjoyable dancer to watch, but last night's performance felt like the start of a long and interesting journey for Snapshots before it reaches completion.

By contrast, David Willdridge's Leave Elegance To The Tailor was a confident, understated work: the type of piece which makes people fall in love with contemporary dance.

Officially about the distortion of memories, Leave Elegance offered the audience the opportunity to relish watching two extremely good dancers move, from Willdridge's fluid, animal-like grace in the opening scene, to his powerful and haunting duets with Daniela B Larsen. Larsen seemed a little underused at times, but in the context of the programme notes, she appeared to be the embodiment of past memories - making the work sometimes reminiscent of The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Leave Elegance To The Tailor was an unexpected treat, and one to be savoured. Please can we have more performances of this?

Di-Vide, by Attach Dance Company, was a sharp departure from Andy Macleman's and Drew Hawkins's Drone, which had been performed at the Bob Lockyer celebrations (read our review) last April - Resolution! again proving itself to be an opportunity for new choreographers to explore with ideas and styles. While Drone had been an understated and simple work, Macleman and Hawkins clearly wanted to offer much much more in Di-Vide, with little remaining from Drone apart from their stillness in motion.

Di-Vide was a work in two halves, itself divided by the music, with Lucien Dubuis's La Danse des Machines creating a jaunty, Charlestonesque feel, contrasting with the seriousness of the second half, with music by Haxan Cloak.

The programme notes offered several definitions for "divide", and this was perhaps most notable in the difference in choreography for the two women (Hannah Wintie and Emily Thompson-Smith) compared with that for Macleman and Hawkins, which made the same-sex duets far more effective than the mixed-sex duets; the men's strong partnership was evident in the confidence and ease of their partnerwork.

Ultimately, however, the other three dancers struggled to match Macleman's prowess, although in one scene, Wintie echoed a breathtaking solo by Macleman, and was also whipped around in the air by Hawkins.

Di-Vide showed a lot of promise, and it was refreshing to see Macleman and Hawkins explore with shifting dynamics, different styles and different dancers - let's see what they create next!


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To Do...

I love to write lists. I write lists for most things in my life. I'll write a list of things I need to list if I can. I've even put writing this blog on a list. I don't think this is because I'll forget to write it otherwise, I think it's simply because then I can tick it off my list, and feel like I've achieved something.
Amongst all my lists, I've been thinking about productivity, and how best to go about getting the most out of my time. I'm torn between two schools of thought; does activity breed action, or is a clear mind (and timetable) a more productive one?

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Interview: Matthew Robinson

Matthew Robinson, a London Contemporary Dance School graduate and a Scottish Dance Theatre dancer, is returning to Resolution! on Saturday 19 January, with his first new choreography after two well-received collaborations with fellow Scottish Dance Theatre dancer Toby Fitzgibbons. Having featured him as one of the people to watch in this year's Resolution!, we caught up with him to find out more about Vacant Skin, and about his work. You can find out more about him, and buy tickets for his show at the bottom of the page.

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A Very Cool Evening

Winter Portraits: an evening of choreographies and dancing both by the professionals and by all.

As a Londoner (I feel I can officially call myself a Londoner after 10 years of London living), I strive to wear the most stylish vintage clothes, know the trendiest unknown bars and go to “cool” events. Last night I had achieved the Tel Aviv equivalent.

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Resolution! 2013 At A Glance

Resolution! was founded by John Ashford in 1990, and while it's quickly become an essential rite of passage for new dance companies and new choreographers, in the three years since John Ashford left The Place, Resolution! seems to have been seeking ways of redefining itself, especially in the face of a changing industry. The 2013 edition seems to have one of strongest and most diverse lineups of recent years, while The Place has transformed the support they offer, providing even more much-needed guidance on presenting one's work.

As Resolution! and Aerowaves have parted company, there will be 81 companies performing in 27 triple bills over six weeks. While some of the companies and choreographers may be known to various people, either to their friends and peers, or as dancers in well-known companies - what about everyone else?

As it's impossible to expect people to attend every single night, it's valuable to have recommendations on who to watch out for - as one of the selling points of Resolution! is the opportunity to catch The Next Big Thing - perhaps the next Matthew Bourne or Hofesh Shechter or even Rafael Bonachela...?

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Rehearsals in Words: CoCoDanse December 2012

December for me saw the beginnings, and eventually the bulk of, rehearsals for CoCo Danse's Resolution! 2013 piece, 'SetBack'. Wanting to document the process and experience that myself, the other dancers, the musician and the choreographer were having, I asked each person in the team for a word to sum up each rehearsal.

A harder task than you might think, what follows is those words, and my thoughts at each stage of the process.

'SetBack' by Corrinne Jola will be performed at The Place on Wednesday 13th February.

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A Curtain Up on new Israeli dance talent

At the start of each year, I thoroughly enjoy going to The Place to watch Resolution! to check out the new choreographers, styles and trends evolving in the dance world - I love seeing if there is a new wave or style evolving. Therefore, I was very pleased to be attending Israel’s version of Resolution!, named Curtain Up.    

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Fall into Movement: Gaga Class with Ohad Naharin

I am copying this from my notebook, because as soon as I left this particular Gaga dance class, I knew I had to get it down on paper. With my three Gaga dance classes a week, you'd think that Gaga would have become part of my normal routine by now, however Gaga still gives me freedom, and a feeling of pure joy and exuberance!

Today’s Gaga class has taken those feelings to a whole new level, therefore as soon as I was on the bus home, I had to write down my thoughts. Today I did Gaga class as taught by the very Gaga creator and Batsheva Dance Company Artistic director himself: Ohad Naharin.

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New Adventures: Sleeping Beauty



Well-known for his classic adaptations, Matthew Bourne has once again embraced the opportunity to recreate a fairy tale: Sleeping Beauty. Claiming a Tchaikovsky ballet for the third time running, Bourne has streamlined this story into a gothic retelling, adding whimsical elements to delight and surprise the audience.

Originally choreographed in 1890 by Marius Petipa, Sleeping Beauty was then considered a technical venture of epic proportions. Narrowing the lens of the story, Bourne created token gestures referencing original movements, but reinvents and appropriates the solos at will. Instead of a ballroom filled with people, the audience is given a room of Fairies, bestowing their gifts to delight the child in the dark of night. In a delightful twist, the Lilac Fairy emerges surprisingly as a dominant male, a commanding and protective spirit for the child.

Most notable was Bourne’s alteration of characterisations. No longer is Aurora in the sidelines of her own story, but is represented as a willful and engaging child demonstrated through the clever use of puppetry. An endearing scene with the child Aurora being chased around the room by her nurse allows for the believable development of Aurora into an adult, one curious and rebellious enough to prick her finger on an enchanted flower.

If baby puppet Aurora dominated and delighted the audience in act one, act two’s surprise was the arrival of the evil Carabosse’s son, Caradoc. Rivaling the love Aurora had found in her family’s gardener Leo, Caradoc attempts to make Aurora his own, intending to claim her life as he takes her as his own. Thwarting his plan, Leo is only able to penetrate the gates of the house and survive the sleep through the mercy of Christopher Marney as the Lilac Fairy, who is all gothic grandeur, possessing hidden vampiric talent. These modern inflections are what allow Bourne’s adaptation to re-contextualise the story itself, cleverly providing sound solutions to holes in the tale (how would Leo live through one hundred years without being enchanted?).

Though large-scale scenes are avoided as a general rule in this work, there was still some surprising alternatives. Aurora’s sixteenth birthday, occurring in 1911 was, with the aid of talented designer Lez Brotherston, an Edwardian explosion of waltz and ‘The Castle Walk’. Equally stimulating was “the land of the sleepwalkers”, a clever use of blindfolded dancers under enchantment allowing for the continuation of Aurora as an active dancer rather than as a passive character.

Those who prefer a true take on Tchaikovsky’s ballet may be disappointed by the alterations Bourne has undertaken, but in doing so Bourne has recreated, spliced and spiced up the original. Focussed around the central story, contextualized to present day, Bourne has evolved the fairytale to create something engaging and applicable to audiences who see the true value and timelessness of a good fairytale.

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The Israeli Ballet meets Itzik Galili

 “Circles to square and cubes to double would give a man exercise trouble” - but not to Itzik Galili!

This is a review of The Israeli Ballet’s performance of Israeli choreographer Itzik Galili’s work. “Circles to square and cubes to double would give a man exercise trouble” is a quote by mathematician Mathew Prior. Why am I quoting maths in a dance blog? You will have to wait and see...

I have always been a fan of the ballet, making numerous trips to see the Royal Ballet, and I would bend over backwards to get tickets for the American Ballet Theatre whenever they arrived at Sadler’s Wells (which was always a race for best seats). Most of all, of course, for my favourite company, Birmingham Royal Ballet. The BRB are my favourite ballet company: not just because I was born and raised in the West Midlands, but due to their adaptability from classical to more modern pieces and how they always give me feelings of butterflies (whether happiness or emotional). I was therefore very excited on Thursday night to get my first viewing of The Israeli Ballet at the Jerusalem Theatre. In a country with an explosive dance scene, was I about to have a new favourite ballet company?

I would first of all like to note the Jerusalem Theatre itself: I love coming here as it reminds me of home. The concrete building, the modernist touch to the architecture, the winding and overlapping hallways and the 70’s styled seating: it all reminds me of how the Barbican Theatre or Royal Festival Hall looks and feels. So I always get joy going to the Jerusalem Theatre.

Another factor to add to my excitement of the evening was that I thought I was going to see one of my favourite dance pieces, A Linha Curva by the choreographer Itzik Galili. I have seen this dance work three times, performed by the Rambert Dance Company, as I loved it so much.

Rambert Dance Company performing A Linha Curva.


A Linha Curva has a high energy Brazilian feel, with complex canons and extremely good use of lighting with square patterns, which engaged Rambert's dancers with a sense of “humanness”. As the dancers “partied” through the dance, it felt that the Rambert dancers were at a party, giving us a sense of who they were individually. The piece appeared to be choreographed around the squared chessboard lighting and through the upbeat percussive score.

On the picture of the poster for The Israeli Ballet I was excited to see the same coloured chessboard lighting: was I to see my favourite piece again? I was wrong, though I got the right choreographer: Itzik Galili. Galili is Israeli, a former Batsheva dancer who has choreographed for Batsheva Dance Company, Nederlands Dans Theater II and more recently the English National Ballet. His use of lighting, complex use of canon and high-paced but still clean-cut choreography appear to be a signature of his work. The number of groups of dancers onstage also seem to be integral to his work, giving it a mathematical approach, making his work so stunning and aesthetically pleasing. “Wherever there is number, there is beauty” (as quoted by mathematician Diadochus Proclus) - yes, here is the reasoning for the maths quotes, more to follow!

The Israeli Ballet performed three of his works that evening, including Hikarizatto, and And The Earth shall Bear Again, which the English National Ballet premiered this year.

I feel the first mistake of the evening was having such similar works by the same choreographer in the same evening, as Galili’s works all had same feel and texture on the outside. This appeared to my friends as “boring”, but what they did not pay attention to was the detail of his work which I so admired. As the great mathematician Henri Poincaré said “mathematicians do not study objects, but relations between objects. Thus, they are free to replace some objects by others so long as the relations remain unchanged. Content to them is irrelevant: they are interested in form only”. If you are a dance teacher, like me, you should be using his work as a guideline for successful canon. In Hikarizatto and And The Earth shall Bear Again, the dancers moved in and out of each other’s phrases smoothly and with such ease as if they were dancing on ice. It was much unexpected when they did the canon in such unexpected ways so you were always kept on your toes as an audience member. For example, at a few points, the dancers form a line at the front of the stage and some start a movement pharse with arms gestures coming up and down from the floor with swings and pliés. Some of the dancers would join in with canon of that phrase, an odd dancer would then start another phrase, and then another dancer would reverse the new phrase and maybe return to the original canon. It was all unexpected and kept you wanting more.

The lighting for Hikarizatto was stunning and added to the drama and unexpectedness of the piece. At one point, the dancers moved back in their pairs and in canon as they left the stage with a repeated phrase within squares of light. However, as the dancers backed towards upstage right, the last couple in the canon appeared to “switch off” the squared lights. This sense of lighting showing and hiding movement seems to be played with in all of Galili’s pieces. Later, during a beautiful duet at the front of the stage, there was a line of dancers moving from stage right to left in a slow continuous manner. They were lit very dimly so they were only slightly seen. This made them even more intriguing and a beautiful contrast to the striking strong broken ballet duet at the front. In an interview, Galili told the Jewish Chronicle that “lighting is poetry. It can define personalities, it can distinguish between cold and warmth, And it can also define space.” The lighting for Hikarizatto was used in a way that it almost became the third performer in the space, as if the lighting was dancing with the dancers.


The movement style of Galili is very hard to describe within one blog, but I will generalise. At moments there are obvious ballet structures from extended arabesques, to pirouette on piquée’s, to traditional partnering of boys supporting girls and pointe work. However between these moments there is an almost melting, breaking of joints and back to extension. There is also a sense of each dancer connecting to unusual points with their own bodies. At times I feel in Galili’s choreography that the dancers both duet with themselves and with their partners.

Earlier I mentioned that the first mistake was The Israeli Ballet doing three similar Galili pieces in the same evening bill. The second mistake is that I don’t think The Israeli Ballet was ready for Galili’s technical, intricate and fast-paced work, and it appeared too complex for their abilities. Certainly they could perform the work, but didn't really get to the depth and process of Galili's work! I felt very critical of the dancers as I left the theatre, with a few “off moments” playing on my mind. At one point, one of the dancers fiddled with her costume and pulled it down, a moment of beautiful and complex canon ruined by a very confused dancer, but the most shocking moment was when a dancer went to run on stage, hesitated and retreated, only then to be pushed back on stage by another dancer!

The Israeli Ballet Company, however, has only been dancing in contemporary dance pieces for the last year; the ballet company itself has only been going since 1967, which is relatively young, and it remains the only ballet company in Israel to be performing the big international full-length ballets. Nevertheless, I did feel a bit disappointed as I felt they didn’t do Galili’s work justice, especially after seeing his work performed by Rambert Dance Company. I was expecting to see that Israeli “fire in the belly” but I didn’t, I just saw hesitance.

This made me stop and think: for the last three months, I have been raving about how great the Israeli dance scene is, especially recently as I was interviewed by BBC Radio 4 about the Israel Dance Scene. I spoke about how wonderful and unique Gaga is, how technically brilliant and fierce the performers of Batsheva are - but wait. I had forgotten the amazing dance talent we have back home in England. We have a rich and diverse dance history with an ever-growing excellence in dance training and companies. Rambert Dance Company are great, bringing their versatility, their talent and energy to each performance. Even Galili mentioned Rambert to The Stage newspaper: “Stunning dancers. You English are lucky to have them – they are God’s trophy in your hands.” This is definitely true as we know that Einstein said that “dancers are the athletes of God”. We are very lucky to have great companies like Rambert or Akram Khan. So I still have BRB as my favourite ballet company, although my favourite dance company still remains to be Batsheva Dance Company... come on England, take them on!


You can listen to Tori's BBC interview here:

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C-12 Dance Theatre: Emerge



The Space in Westferry provided an intimate, up-close and somewhat cosy setting for this triple bill of work by C-12 Dance Theatre’s established and emerging choreographers.

James Williams’s ‘In New Light’ opened the programme, demonstrating slick, fluid, well-rehearsed movement material performed on, over, around and underneath a black sofa.  A duet for Williams and Ana Dias, ‘In New Light’ starts with a bang (a very loud bang, from live musician Janette Williams’s drumkit), and gradually builds from dimly lit, thoughtfully placed gestural motifs, into an accomplished partnership of the two performers.

There is a serene and nonchalant energy as Dias and Williams deftly shift and tip the sofa to create surprising and pleasing moments that are revisited but constantly developed and further explored throughout the work.

The live drums are accompanied by Andrew Willshire on bass guitar, which is made the focus of the work as the dancers become still. Willshire’s melancholic chords serve to bring about a shift in energy in the piece, and give way to a simple exchange and first suggestion of real human connection between the two dancers. Building on this, the movement relationship becomes playful towards the end of the piece, developing the work and changing the feeling of the space in a way that enriched the precision of the movement in a way that had not been demonstrated earlier on in the work.

After a short break, the evening moved on to the second guest choreographer of the evening,  Miranda Mac Letten’s ‘The Endeavour To Be Super’. This was a playful, engaging work that explores its four characters’ feelings of being behind the mask of a super hero, and then exposed as themselves.

Letten demonstrates insightful use of stock cartoon super hero movements, and all four of the creeping, tip-toeing performers made good use of their proximity to the audience in the intimate performance space.

Comedic sequences of a phone ringing, and the dancers covertly shifting around the set, comprising of two wallpapered panels with framed Batman prints on, gave a sense of a plot thickening, although it is never quite clear what that plot might be.

The light-hearted, mischievous exchanges between the four dancers continue, and build into very genuine struggles and scuffles, supported by the familiar ‘BANG’, ‘ZAP’, ‘WHAM’ cartoon signs; it is humorous and enjoyable. The humour begins to dissipate towards the end, as John Ross reacts physically to Camila Guiterrez dropping sheets of cartoon words, and a more sinister tone is suggested, just as the piece ends, leaving Ross lying defeated on the floor, with a sense that there may be something here to be continued.

The final piece of the night was an extract from ‘Scorned’ by C-12’s Artistic Director Annie-Lunnette Deakin-Foster, featuring ‘four fierce, powerful and disgruntled women’. Through a series of lyrical unison phrases, and detail in trembling hands and tightly wound facial expressions, the audience are witness to their collective and individual angst.

These four very individual bodies (two in white slip dresses, two in black) are perhaps not used as effectively as possible, but as a group they are powerful. Moments of note include skilful use of a large white sheet, entwining each dancer at a time, shifting, lifting and carrying them through a series of dynamic and unexpected exchanges.

The movement material constantly responds to the soundtrack of rich strings, harpsichord and electric guitar, at times in a way which can seem over the top or forced. The more engaging sections are of defiant unison, with echoes of vocabulary from strong women such as Martha Graham.

With a five-night run at The Space, there is every reason to see this varied and engaging evening of work.


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