Rambert2 is a spectacular and charged performance with dancers of incredible physicality, elasticity, and vigour. I believe they earned the standing ovation; less so the choreographers. Rambert2 is made of three pieces, of which Sin, choreographed by Damien Jalet and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, is the most striking and beautiful. Sin is sandwiched between a disappointing and dated piece with a scifi flavour and an explosive but crowded and uneven piece at the end.
The first piece opens with dancers in space-like suit playing an impossible game of words. The theatrical side is quickly ditched and left unresolved to move to fun and rhythm. It lacks a journey, cohesiveness, and beauty. The final piece brims with colour and movement. It shows off the dancers’ agility, strength, and smoothness. They also show skill and coordination in working a rather limited stage. Sin is simply mesmerising. It is a gripping duet capturing the conflictual nature of desire, the life force of eroticism, and annihilation. It is beautiful and beautifully executed.
Rambert2 is a bonfire of energy with uneven pieces. Its main weakness lies in being too concerned with effect. It is ‘stagy’ with an expert use of music, lights, and showing off talent. It wants to entertain the audience and overall it succeeds. Yet, it does so by relinquishing the poetry that is present in Sin and at the beginning of the final piece.
Rambert2 was part of Cardiff Dance Festival, performed at Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama
Our mission statement at Get The Chance is “Creating opportunities for a diverse range of people to experience and respond to sport, arts, culture and live events.”
After the publication of the new Arts Council Wales, Corporate Plan, 2018 – 2023 “For the benefit of all” we interviewed a range of arts professionals in November 2018 to discuss the intentions of Arts Council Wales and suggest ways that their ambitions may be best realised.
A year one from this article we spent time broadly discussing the aims of the Corporate Plan and what change (if any) has occurred in the sector. The questions we asked elicited a personal response from everyone involved. We are publishing our second response below from Rachel and Jamie from Avant Cymru. Avant Cymru describe themselves as “A forward thinking theatre company from the South Wales Valleys. Creating relevant, distinctive theatre, dance, Hip Hop and artistic activity with and for our community and championing this work at home and afar.”
Hi Can you tell us about yourself please?
Hi Avant Cymru are made up of many different individuals. We have key members for the company who come a different range of backgrounds
LOW INCOME/HIGH INCOME
There are two elements we can relate to with each other, all have mental health issues or have family members who have had long term mental health conditions. The other is that we all have Dyslexia and for some, other learning disabilities including ADHD and Dyspraxia.
What was your personal pathway into the arts?
We have all had different pathways, one thing which we all have in common is that our parents were not in a position to be able to pay for classes and training which others could afford as we were growing up. For Rachel Pedley our Artistic Director this resulted in her assisting classes to cover the cost of her classes and taking on multiple jobs to pay for the clothing, equipment and assessments.
Do you think your class; gender or ethnic background has impacted on your education or career?
All of us have found prejudice for our backgrounds from certain individuals. This has helped us find strength in each other. We appreciate that none of us sound, look or have experienced the same as the other and this means we can enrich each other by sharing our differences.
What have you found to be your personal barriers to accessing the arts and being able to develop a sustainable career? Is a sustainable career even possible?
Money – Money, Money and most worryingly segregation.
Do you feel comfortable within your personal arts environment or is the different class, gender, ethnic background or privilege of colleagues something that impacts on you?
There are many environments we find ourselves in where there are middle to upper class people. As a majority working class company we do find it difficult to be able to explain that the places we perform, teach and train are very different to those accessed by the people we see outside of the Valleys and outside of the areas we perform across the world with our Hip Hop work. We have been to the purpose built buildings, with equipment and resources. We are grateful for the spaces and people who support us, without them the Valleys would be falling behind, they have kept opportunities available helping companies like ours to excel and grow. However the Valleys need purpose built spaces and talent to be championed.
Are things are getting better or worse?
Worse – Segregation is happening through policy led decisions.
ACW have the target of “We will enable a greater number and a wider diversity of people to enjoy, take part and work in the publicly funded arts.” Do you think this is acheivable?
True diversity happens when you have all involved who want to be. All financial backgrounds, race, religion, abilities, ages accessing and participating.
Do you think ACW will be able them to deliver on their targets and why?
Unless the funding is focused on actual practice coming from the people and the varied communities looking to open their doors, it will never be achieved, you can’t buy diversity by forcing people into areas, jobs, etc without them having their heart and soul in that area. There are already many diverse projects happening across Wales – not funded by anyone in many cases. The funders need to look beyond those they think they know and see the amazing work being developed from the ground up. There you will find achievement that will be sustainable, diverse and rich as it comes from those who may not have the ability to write a funding form, or deal with the networking meetings, but those who love the area, the people and the art of where they live and what they are inspired by.
How do you think ACW would be able to best realise their intentions?
Come to hear from audiences and participants, see what is being achieved and who is achieving it.
From your personal lived experience what needs to change?
That funders fund what the community want and need, instead of pushing statistics.
If you are interested in the work of Avant Cymru, further information on their next event can be found below.
Open Art Surgery with Breakin’ Convention Ty Pawb Art Gallery, Wrexham, LL13 8BBFri 14th February 2020
Open Art Surgery Wales invites you to delve into the mind and souls of some of the UK’s finest hip hop artists as they dare to try something new, dangerous and exciting!Artists present brand new short works devised and developed in just one week with mentorship from hip hop theatre aficionados Jonzi D, Ivan Blackstock and Anthony Lennon.This unique event, which takes place at the end of a week of intense research and development, presents six new works to the audience who are then invited to critique, feedback and ask questions to the artists involved.
Open Art Surgery is not about presenting finished work. The focus is to develop theatre skills within hip hop artists and to experiment with new ideas that could be developed further in the future. Breaking down of the fourth wall to allow the audience to engage with the artists, Open Art Surgery is an unmissable event in the Breakin’ Convention calendar.Hosted by Breakin’ Conventions Jonzi D
The highlight of the Dance Festival, for me, has been the workshop offered by Fearghus Ó Conchùir, Artistic Director of the National Dance Company Wales (NDCW). It was not only an opportunity for those like me, without dance training, to participate, but also a personal gift from an experienced and professional dancer to whoever wanted to be part of it. The workshop was open to all, with no financial or skills barrier, and it was led by Fearghus with an open attitude, making no impositions.
We began with some basic ballet moves. My lack of dance training meant that movements were like foreign words which I stumbled to pronounce. The repetition at the beginning helped me fix the plies that, judging by my aching legs, I used throughout the day.
After the initial ‘structured’ session, Fearghus told us that we would do ‘contact improv’ in couples and in group, an announcement which was met by a terrified expression on my face. Being used to intellectual work alone, having to focus on the body and make sense of it with others is daunting. In the dancing space, I can only express myself through my body. There is nowhere to hide.
I have done some ‘contact work’ before. This time, we began as couples where one touched the other’s body gently, while the other became attentive to their own body and then responded to the touch. A simple touch, an attentiveness to one’s body, and a response to touch formed the essential elements of our dance for the day. I quickly found myself in duets and in group in synergy with others without effort, so much that asked to improvise alone, I complain that I lost my partner.
The togetherness that Fearghus wanted us to explore requires listening to one another’s bodies and being in dialogue with one another. It is not achieved by putting aside differences, rather by working with them. Perhaps the most interesting exercise was one of imitation. We were all asked to dance a solo for one (very long) minute while observed by the rest of the group, who in turn had to replicate something of our movement.
Like impressionists, we tried to imitate, but soon became interpreters with our own bodies. We tried to extract the essence of a person’s movements and recreate it, but this process of analysis and reproduction soon became one of interpretation. Other people’s movements sat differently in our bodies. It was a beautiful exercise in discovering the other as well as oneself.
Outside competitions and professional performances, dance is a gift of one’s way of expressing oneself through movement. It makes one vulnerable. It makes one risk judgment and rejection; yet all giving is thus. A soulful gift is the giving of oneself with no expectation of reciprocity.
Tir Cyfreddin/Shared Ground Workshop was part of Cardiff Dance Festival.
(This article was first published on Groundwork Pro Blog)
The piece opens with the dancers rooted to the floor, in
what seems like the foundations of a tree. As tensions build, the tree begins
to sway by the wind which causes a ripple through each performer. The storm
builds taking hold of the dancers swirling them through the space like leaves
drifting through the wind. Thus creating, an autumnal flurry of movement and
immersive sound. It’s imagery like this, that forms the development of the
storm throughout the piece. The dancers utilise this as well as breath to
create the effect of the ever-growing storm around us. It’s their skill and
power as performers that really drives the audience with them through the storm
The movement used was often self-indulgent allowing us to see the performers not as performers but as people, with their own desires and limitations. Even when taken by the wind and shifted through the space, the performers remained as themselves, not characters. Their own emotions drove them to move and create, with the ensemble often echoing the soloists state of mind in the backdrop of the stage. At times, swirling and spiralling across the space whilst the soloists remained still, reflecting their inner turmoil although their own appearance remained static and unphased. The first half of the piece focuses on simpler values to portray the story of the storm, imagery via use of line and shape within the movement and allowing the knock-on effect from dancer to dancer which creates this ever-building tension.
However, the second half, relies heavily on theatrics and storytelling to get this point across. The timing of movements and the beginning of phrases becomes predictable, which with such fascinating, detailed music (composed by Amarok / Michal Wojtas which I shall be purchasing once released) becomes frustrating. There seems a loss of detail in the realness of these people, which was previously so enchanting. Facial expressions become forced and lose their authenticity, with an absence of realism in their hands and reaches.
Although, with this being said, the theatrical elements
really did provide food for thought. Especially the initial solo by Norikazu
Aoki. It approached the theme of mental health with self – destructiveness and
the desire from those around him to help fight this addiction. These things are
extremely important to be visualised in work on stage and such a difficult
topic to explore well. By leaving the solo so simple, it allowed the audience
to resolve their own interpretation of what was happening. It sparked a real
understanding of these issues from the point of those witnessing someone
deteriorate and how we can and should assist in those moments of self-harm.
This sharing of help was continued throughout the piece with simple, gestural
motifs such as that as the unfolding of hands.
The role of the observer stands as its own motif throughout the piece. This played by the choreographer James Wilton. He is present in almost all the scenes providing stillness to the continuing motion on stage. This leads me to question, is this piece the story of one man? Are the performers on stage sharing his own personal experiences to the audience? And was this his journey to self help and how he overcame his own demons?
I feel this track captures the ebbs and flows of Roots, NDCWales specifically Écrit by Nikita Goile. The performance started with a lone female dancer moving fluidly, almost like a crisp packet in a melancholic wind. A muscular male was positioned behind a white screen, mirroring her movements. To me this suggested he may be out of reach in some way; another women perhaps, even though the synchronisation implied an obvious connection. I feel the performance brilliantly portrayed the struggle that every human being must go through: a quest for true love. The company made brilliant use of the space, and the eerie lighting provided an excellent back drop to the performance. The dancers used sweeping movements and emotive body language to visually represent their potential romance, although love must always be reciprocated and sometimes we have to cut off a part of us and let go in order to reach the highest peak.
(When we enter a workshop or performance
we already carry so much with us, which shapes and resonates perpetually in how
we feel, sense, think witness… and determines what we take away.)
Possibly I enter each workshop dressed
in degrees of resistance and estimated angles of surrender,
definitely un-definitive desires.
Desires secretly aflame stashed as best
I can for another occasion.
The geometry of these desires has been
formed by my habitats of dancing, which have since childhood most predominately
been solitary experiences, practices and investigations. Flickering into
dancing nights out and occasional classes or workshops.
(Working under or up to a choreographer
or even a teacher never quite seems to fit.) The implicit–explicit hierarchies and
structures involved in the process of ‘becoming a dancer’ contrast significantly
with those of other art forms.
My tendency seems to ‘dip in’ intermittently
to social sites of contemporary dance- seeking conversations, connections with
other dancing bodies- sources of reorientation rather than reproduction.
There is a lot I keep stashed under
wraps in workshop situation.
That I edit out of my dancing in order
to be there.
Perhaps everyone there does.
How thread bear can the fleshy garments
we wear between life and dance?
I continue to find it distracting being
in a room full of dancers ‘doing moves’ -moves which have been shaped by the
aesthetics and conduct of contemporary dance class. There is a strong
determinative current in the room- in some ways experienced as an opportunist ‘expansive’
and fertile energy- yet also
subliminally restrictive, prescriptive and within determining stylistic
Ever-present (even in absence) is the
omniscient all-knowing mirror in the room- in the held faces.
Sprayed on songs counted in 8.
An inheritance of aesthetics and ideologies.
As such dance classes and workshops are
also a site of renouncement.
Resonance and Dissonance have been as
much a part of my dance quests and navigations as my desires.
disappointments, preconceptions. These ebb and flow, merge and submerge,
comforts and discomforts, hopes barriers, openings, shields. Somehow I wear
them all… as in the misspelling the 2nd hand blue sweater I am wearing as I
Love and Conflict co-inhabit as Survival
in the way i wear and experience my body- in dance and life.
My anti Ideologies include paradox and
contradiction, which resonate harmonically with dissonance and self undoing.
Everyone has their rules and regulations…to
apprehend…however morphic, unrecognisable, displaced from the establishment
There is a welcome greeting from
Rosalind which extends somehow as a climate, an
atmosphere into the first actions of the day.
She is throw away with her words and
tasks…as if shooting a tin can with exactitude and disarming laughter. Sending
things flying in disarray… arriving with a perturbingly exacting landing. I
believe in the moment I shall remember everything she says… yet never seem to.
We are invited to wear in-depth, the
fleshy gestures we enact as we ‘Warm UP’.
Somehow there is a dressing and
undressing from our needs- practical, physical, emotional. Which elements do we
self-consciously edit out or adjust in this social situation?
A few years ago I stripped away Warming UP.
It had always been a synthetic add on.
Easy to let go of…and almost made necessary by life’s constraints.
Anyway my real desire was always to
begin by dancing without expectation. Perhaps what I identified as ‘warming up’…has been
historically identified by what I am not ready, or not yet good enough for.
If any thing I ‘warm down’ – a practical
apparatus to be able to carry my dance back into my life- patterns and
constructs of my body in day to day survival. A kind of savoury dessert. An
elixir of the ordinary.
It is a chorus somehow strangely echoes …down
the line from Deborah Hay….
“Getting What You Need”
Not here or now this morning… yet
somehow it echoes of its own accord.
When this incantation first resounded in
my radar I had to undress it from associations of affirmation. It seems to fit
easy when I recognise “what I need” as a cellular unidentifiable, morphic,
surprising and self unravelling experience. What I need as a question, rather
than an acquisition.
An invitation, direction or gesture of
departure as well as arrival.
Somehow Rosalind offered Warming UP as question…. an
invitation to reconfigure ‘needs’…moving within easy to reach field of
Perhaps if I rechristen Warming UP as acclimatising.
“Warming UP” could feel like an invitation to
include very practical and ordinary elements of my everyday body- needs, fears and desires.
Warming UP deciphers beginnings and
endings, invitations, expectations to tuning into tuning out of.
Rosalind describes a musical scale as a
metaphor for Warming Up.
A series of portals to experience
aspects of feeling and being which appear and disappear.
Warming Up those vital aspects of ourselves,
dormant, or attired in getting through life, which can dishabille dancing?
I am aware of how I am tethered by by my
own discreetlyoppositional anti establishment ideologies…which have their own
restrictions within civilised systems.
Rosalind speaks of “Shedding”through the day.
Somehow this Act of Shedding has been the only
way anything has ever formed, accumulated, been generated, or encompassed in my
the habitat of my dance.
There is a freedom and exactitude to “Shedding”.
She rechristens Warming UP as Noticing.
Like orphaning and rechristening a child
of the establishment as an illegitimate out of wedlock love child…tuning the harmonics and melodics of the
…the exchanging interface between life
body and dancing body.
*Orienting includes of Disorientating
Rosalind lightly describes years of being in
the studio alone.
And her fidelity to
“Just One Thing”at a time
…as a Practice.
“Practice” is another word I have orphaned, adopted and rechristened as a Habitat.
After all I always try to untether
activities from Justifications.
In a world where justice can only be a
fleeting or temporal accommodation.
The End of the World?
…Should it be a question any longer?
…So many worlds are ending.
…Yet the world is not a Mono-theistic
(Even if that is translated into modern
silhouette of Atheism or sacrificial
altar of Scientific Progress and Salvation. )
…Beyond my fingertips yes but not the
nerve endings of my the reality of my imagination.
…Extinction still seems somehow out of
reach…like the aspirational vote…on the top shelf of the corner shop.
…No-one ever shops there anymore.
…Warming Up as a mammalian being
flickering through other forms of alien earthly life?
…Shedding humanity as a destination.
Perceptually many worlds not one?
“Whoever says salvation exists is a slave, because he keeps weighing
each of his and deeds in every moment.’Will I be saved or damned he tremblingly
asks…Salvation means deliverance from all saviours…the perfect saviour …who
shall deliver mankind from Salvation”
John Gray STRAW DOGS
Possibly sometime ago I would have felt
a sense of inadequacy in attempting to commit to Rosalind’s “ Just one Thing.” .
Now I seem to realise I have a tendency
towards the inside out.
(My mother who is incredibly
superstitious insists its unlucky to change your clothes if you put them on
inside out…lately she seems to have extended this in recent years to back to
front scenarios.) She is suddenly older.
….I start with a myriad of unnamed
constellations and something strangely specific and singular seems to
crystallise amongst the sensations.
Rosalind seems to start with some
singular, visceral, displacing devotional action- distilling an undefinable,
multiplicity of sensation. Somehow her work reconfigures the relationship
between the dancers nervous and reflexive systems.
“For polytheists, religion is a matter
of practice not belief: and there are many kinds of practice….
Polytheism is too delicate a way of
thinking for modern minds.”
John Gray. STRAW DOGS.
In Rosalind’s practice duality and
multiplicity to experientially unfold through devotion and surrender through
attending a singular perceptual activity.
She speaks of the duality or
oppositional friendship between her dancing self and choreographing self.
fidelity to being moved by singular responsive action invites a dynamic
multiplicity created by possibilities of empathetic polarities…movements
between oppositional perceptions, or ways of apprehending experience.
She speaks of resting into/ committing
to the specific initiation of one definitive
activity – tethering the mind/ brain- keeping it busy- so body can be
free to… perhaps not act as its subject.
We begin with SURFACE(s)….interplays of
exchange, interfaces- membranes of
sensation…She specifies “SURFACE” not located, dislocated identified as skin, clothing, hair, aura, fat, nerves, space.
This definition is perceptually
inclusive rather than exclusive.
We begin differentiating the sense of
whole body and a body in parts.
We change channel to our VOLUME– Sensations of our how we are contained
within our forms.
“What if the depth is on the surface?” An echo from Deborah Hay.
Our Skin an outer brain.
Our Brain an inner skin.
The skin of a thought.
The mind of sensation/ feeling.
I wonder…What if we our whole being is
surface?… internally externally a site of exchange/ interface, a multiplicity.
Each organ, nerve, vessel, muscle, orifice an intricate accumulation- a series, a family of surfaces. Every cell
of our body…an intricate, responsive folding of surfaces, membranes, skins of
I inhabit my Volume. I feel my Surfaces.
I inhabit my surface. I feel my Volumes.
I feel myself one…I become many.
I feel myself as many…I become one.
“Opposition is true Friendship”
Marriage of Heaven and Hell. William
partial lecture about a partial history
an unfinished dance by a saturated body
an ongoing practice exposed
Rosalind’s meticulous distillation of
perpetual actions….materialise in her performance. Framed at once by immediate
incremental intervals… and over the history of her dance reaching into other
dance worlds and practices.
Films are shown as a windows into
different fields of her work- thefluid electricsof her nervous system
seems interconnected as other instruments of attentiveness ….perceptual
My daughter sits on my lap and laughs as
Rosalind enacts a live commentary on her actions- a self reporting journalist.
Each moment and action swallowed up by the channelling of next event. The
struggle between words and forms shaping and shedding..dressing and undressing
of destinies… shedding of destinations.
She speaks about the dancer being
carried away by the dance- like a babe in arms. Perhaps she speaks of marriage-
of fidelity rather than faithfulness. I feel the meaning… yet I fail to
remember the vows….the vowels without consonants…constants. Perhaps she is
speaking about different types of love, liberty and dependancy…all
intrinsically, synchronistically intertwined.
There is an ending…She speaks of riding
through forest, as a girl on horseback…and the revisitation to the devastation
of the wilderness she once was carried by and loved. She shows film of herself
dancing, moving in the bodies of felled trees- laid waste.
It is stark and hopeless in its
endurance and truth.
Her humanity exposed and stranded
between animal and machine.
She is a helplessly human visitation in
a scene of natural devastation. Yet she is dancing. Dancing somehow feels like
an authentic activism- where there is no graspable solution.
I am writing this over hearing a
conversation between the waitress at the Old Boys Club and a customer:
It is about animal life and meat.
It is about the value of life in the
face of death.
He says to her, “At the end of the day…When the animals are
going to die anyway…Whats the point of them being happy and living a good life?”
It is also about ourselves.
My dear friend has given me… hand inked
in lovely italics…a sign…
Hope is more convincing in French…because
I don’t speak french.
Rosalind’s incantations and dances are
untampered by representative justifications. Somehow her work channels with a
truthful and disarming delicacy, with apparitions of specificity- a commitment to the beauty and mystery of the
world- of existence.
Fidelity to incrementals of uncounted
She speaks of hands being at the end of
Being carried by the contact we have
with the earth..
The natural world…Out of sight…Out of mind… Out of our hands
But still resounding through our
turning us on the world’s surface/skin-
through our animal universals, rather than our human specialisations.
Perhaps we live in an age…where
salvation must be reconfigured an act of disarmament…
A shedding of Humanity’s Survival-
A shedding of Humanity’s aesthetics
governed by its fears an desires.
It is danse, not dance, because it was in France where Rosalind Crisp realised what she needed to do next. She needed to challenge all the moves and positions that controlled her body after years of ballet and dance training. The one-woman performance begins with a video of Crisp. She moves incessantly. She is a puppet rebelling against her puppeteer. There is an energy inside in search of escape into a movement. That elusive movement is constrained by habits and training. It’s like watching someone running in different directions looking for a way out of a labyrinth.
By the side of the screen Crisp begins to move. A light is shone upon her. There is no music, no sounds, only her breath. Her constant focused movement is gripping. You can’t stop watching her. She begins to talk to the audience. “Sorry I can’t speak Welsh. I’m stuck with English, French, and dance,” she says, “The problem with dance is that,” she whispers, “people don’t understand it.”
What at first might have felt a terribly serious performance turns into a warm and humorous connection with the audience. Crisp tells us about dance and we respond laughing, smiling, and watching her every move. Her self-irony makes her work true and accessible. There is not an ounce of pretension.
Crisp rocks. Literally. She dances to rock music and then tells us that she stopped doing that because it makes you thirsty and there’s lack of water in Australia. Crisp is striking for her earnestness and deep levity. She is deep, just not serious. She is also poetic in how she describes movements wanting to elope with dancers and the dancer being seduced by the promise of being carried away. She ends with a video of herself on a mound of earth and dead vegetation to be witness to the devastation of the bushes in Australia due to deforestation. Her body cries the loss of life.
La grande dame of dance, France awarded her the title of Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Dame of the Arts), is funny with no histrionics, gripping with no artifice, and weird, beautifully so.
I meet Rosalind Crisp in the upstairs theatre at Chapter. ‘This is my space,’ she says. She takes long strides and almost dances to get to her bag. She asks me whether I’m a dancer and looks a little disappointed when I tell her that I’m not. I tell her that I’ve been started to write about dance recently and have fallen in love with it. ‘With a dancer?’ she asks. ‘No, with dance.’ She looks surprised and bemused. She ponders where to have the interview and some lunch. She thinks the café downstairs might be too noisy for my recorder. I tell her that she needs to eat. I feel I’m taking her away from her safe haven to plunge her into the midst of eaters and drinkers, and a film crew filming just outside the café.
Crisp is one of the foremost choreographers in contemporary dance worldwide. In 2015, she was awarded the highest recognition in France as Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et Lettres; yet she is unassuming, kind, and generous. She gives me her time freely and doesn’t mind when my questions become an interrogation. She takes time to explain her aesthetics and idea of dancing without a hint of pride.
Crisp recounts her journey as dancer and choreographer and says, “Some time ago there was a shift, I think it’s when I started working on my own. … In the beginning it was catching the movements and later it was about the way I was producing the movements which has led to my work of the last 15 years.’
Crisp’s radical approach is a close observation of where the body wants to go, the patterns established by years of training and habits, the ‘history,’ as she calls it, of the training that dancers have and that stops them from being aware of where the movement comes from and making different choices. She says, “I suppose I noticed with dancers that if they do things unquestioned that doesn’t interest me, … I would call it the history stuck with them. They haven’t questioned it in that moment. It has more power over them than the present moment because they’re forgetting. They do that and don’t realise that it’s actually just their history speaking,” she laughs.
Crisp’s idea of unlearning dance is a gaining of awareness of movement. She says, “I got very interested in what happens before a movement, what happened after I moved … how actually not do the dancing that I thought was dancing in order to open up a bigger view of what it might be.”
The awareness she seeks takes many years of rigorous training to develop. She says, “I have the same dancers for years and years. … I never say ‘do this or that,’ they’re so deeply in the work. They’re so amazing. They learn so thoroughly to dive into someone’s work. … It amazes me. They’re incredible. They bring so much. They bring this enormous commitment to go wherever I wanna go. … They do it in their own way. It’s given back to me other flavours of the work. … They’re not trying to get it, they’re taking it where it needs to go.”
Crisp’s openness is to the audience too. In undoing dance, she also wants to undo performance. She seeks a connection with the audience by going beyond showing a piece. She reaches out to her audience. She says, “I call it withness. A lot of dancing is being on your own, in your own world, with your eyes shut in the studio, then there’s an audience and it’s a whole other thing. It needs a lot of practice to develop that. It took me a long time to learn how to be with an audience and not just present something for them or at them. … I really love being with the audience. … it’s kind of melting that distance between us.”
I ask her how she connects with the audience. She says, “I just want them to be so involved that there’s nowhere else … I really want them to be completely gripped. Otherwise why do it? It’s gotta be better than television.”
I say that it can be hard to be gripped without narrative. In most TV being gripped is waiting to see what happens next. It’s manipulative.
She says, “I think theatre is very manipulative. I’m completely manipulating the audience. Totally. But I hope you don’t feel manipulated. I hope you just get engaged. It’s because, it’s a lot of trickery, it’s a lot of work, it’s a lot generosity, it’s a lot of skill, it’s a lot of surprises to get an audience really involved.”
I say, “Generosity is not manipulation.”
She says, “It’s still manipulative, it’s still a job to get you engaged.”
I say, “You’re still true to something.”
She says, “Yes, I’m true to my job of getting you engaged. I want them to get involved in every moment, so much that I’ll do anything to get you involved.”
I say, “If you really wanted that, you would do something commercial, why are you not doing something commercial?”
She says, “because I love dancing.”
I say, “See!”
She says, “I believe (dancing) it’s a way I can communicate. It’s the best way I can communicate.”
I say, “That’s not manipulative. You give something you love in the way you love. It’s you giving something.”
I continue, “You need to do something to engage the audience, but that’s not where the work comes from, it comes from you loving dance.”
She says, “You can be a great dancer and a terrible performer. I learned how to perform from Andrew Morrish. He’s a great performer and a great teacher of performing. It’s about the audience. It’s about your connection to the audience. That’s the most important thing for him. I’ve learned a lot from that. There are two responsibilities: one is to my dancing, my material, my satisfaction artistically, the other one is to the audience, and they are both equally important. If I haven’t got the audience I have nothing to offer. If I’m the only one knowing what I do, I have no communication. I still think it’s very manipulative.”
I say, “It’s the wrong term. Manipulative is cheap tricks.”
She says, “I do cheap tricks.”
I say, “I don’t believe you.”
There is no artifice in Rosalind Crisp, no aloofness, no pretension. I do not believe that her work could be anything other than a heartfelt and honest attempt at challenging herself and the audience in the most radical way. It is a work of love.
I’ve never seen contemporary dance live onstage. I’ve seen
glimpses of it on TV – just enough to be fascinated, baffled, then fascinated
again. My relationship with classical music is much the same. A simple melody
can weave its way through an orchestra with astounding grace – but when a
composer tries to tell a story, to my ears, the music lacks the vocabulary to
express it. The artistic intent fades in and out, like a conversation half
overheard across a crowded room.
My first experience of live contemporary dance was full of
grace, but also not without half-heard sentiments. The first of four short pieces
was Nikita Gole’s Écrit – it was my favourite. The story (a passionate
affair between artist Frida Kahlo and her partner Diego) seemed disjointed, but
the dancing was bursting with energy and full of feeling. With Frida in
spotlight and Diego in silhouette behind a curtain, there was a striking visual
contrast onstage. Another striking contrast: Frida begins with flowing hands suggesting
a young flower in bloom, then, as she sheds petals from a rose covered headband,
suddenly I felt wrenched forward in time. This was brilliantly mirrored by
Diego, who opens as a painter slashing and swiping on a canvas, then shrinks
into a rocking chair as a man whose days have all been spent. The story
lingered on from there – Diego taking on a strangely demonic presence that I
couldn’t understand – but the vivid imagery and gorgeously evocative
choreography held me from start to finish. I’d see more of this.
Ed Myhill’s Why Are People Clapping!? tapped into a
more primal, almost tribal energy with his piece, which hit its peak with a
mesmerising succession of solo dances. The momentum ebbed with the persistent
intrusion of sports related choreography, which, for me, was an unwanted
Anthony Matsena’s Codi was the piece I was looking
forward to the most – bringing contemporary dance down into the dark of the
Welsh mines promised to be a thrilling clash of different worlds. I was
mightily impressed with the innovative use of lighting, which made a bare stage
seem full and ever changing. The choreography, however, did not feel hard or
harsh enough to emulate the desperate, dangerous lives of those brave mining
Last on the bill was Fearghus Ó Concchúir’s Rygbí:
Annwyl/Dear, which likewise advertised an appealing fusion (this time,
dance and rugby), but seemed to flit and fly around its subject matter without
ever really going for the gut. With so many complex orchestrated movements to
draw inspiration from, it felt like a missed opportunity that the geometry of
the game was only intermittently recognisable.
What impressed me in every piece was the enthusiasm and
athleticism of a remarkably talented dancing ensemble – the choreography did
not always connect with me, but the pure intent of every performer was a sight
worth seeing. And yes…it makes me want to lean in and hear more of what they’re
saying, too. Next time!