Dance Roads Open Process
Chapter Arts Centre
When I come to Chapter and get to see a performance in the Stiwdio, I am always excited by the versatility of this space and how interchangeable it is. Complimenting this space, Dance Roads Open Process showed us five different performances, all changing the Stiwdio.
Dance Roads is currently celebrating its 25th Birthday of a project supporting the development of performers from a range of countries. We get to see these shows, possibly ranging from raw experiments to almost perfected pieces, some performed by the Choreographers themselves, others directorial, and some a mixture of the two.
The first sight we see entering the space is what was reminiscent to me as the circuits one learns in school when learning about electricity. This circular area seemed bare and slightly concealed by very dark lighting, with only two technicians in the corner of the stage surrounded by wires and computers. The use of a very dim and almost harsh light revealed a wrapped body in the corner who begins to move. This grotesque movement with the use of a ruffled fabric was contorted into strange shapes, leaving an uneasy yet intrigued feeling. Eventually with the contortion ending, we welcome Canadian performer Sarah Bronsard who provides a really interesting piece with a relationship between her and the circuit, soon revealed to make noises such as a metronome. With mostly use of her arms and majority her legs and feet, she began to make beats with her tap shoes that seemed to command the circuit, making several levels of rhythm, such as a percussion band would. Her intensity in the relationship with these small mechanical beings was enticing and the combination of her erratic and quick movements and her eye contact with them made you unable to keep your eyes off the movement for a moment. The quickened pace lead you to believe that we would have a crescendo of chaos, however, this ended in a moment of serenity with more graceful and peaceful movements, the beating eradicated and the focus on a shining box in the corner. This was very effective after several minutes of such mesmerising movement.
Sarah was followed by a Italian Duet, choreographed and also performed by Andrea Gallo Rosso. The stage was cleared for a very minimalist piece, where our focus was purely on the two bodies in similar clothing. The relationship between these two men reminded me of a personal struggle –beginning by pushing one another, with graceful recoveries for a fight for the main centre place. It also seemed that, along with this, the difference in age (while not by much) of the performers could be seen as a younger and older self, also translated into the solo movements with the ‘younger’ self’s movements more erratic, risky and fast paced, as the others was slower, more graceful and careful. This contrast was very beautiful to watch; the dancers using a really good use of levels to draw the audience’s eye across the stage. The trust and clearly well practiced piece was very interesting to watch, especially with the performers never making eye contact with each other and very rarely use. The moments of collaboration needed both these elements and a sense of peripheral vision in order to catch each other and move as one. When eye contact was made with us, it was intense and very personal, bringing us into, what at times, was a very voyeuristic piece.
Another circular stage was set up with a set of torches. We welcomed Pauline Buenerd to the stage to show us a piece by French choreographer, Teilo Troncy. Out of the performances so far, this was the most unordinary. Buenerd moved her body in slow and unordinary images in one space to the sound of silence. For myself, this felt awkward. The pace created a sense of this show taking a long time to come to any fruition. Eventually the pace was quickened, music was involved and we soon realise that the abstract images of snapping her fingers and moving her head was to a jazz band song that was in her head only. The joy transferred onto her face at the knowledge that we could now also hear this, and this joy then became evident in her movement across the stage. With many repetitions of gestures, throwing herself on the floor and jumping in the air, it seemed that this joy was the fuel for her. This again, was uneasy to watch and I felt myself hoping that the piece would end soon. And so it did at the moment that she exhausted herself. If this was the point of the piece, then it was well constructed, however a lot felt as if it was improvised on the spot with no real narration of the purpose.
After a short intermission and change of set, we walk back in the Stiwdio which is once again transformed. Welsh choreographer Jo Fong had created a audience viewing the audience set up – with a camera image projected onto the back wall of the stage of us walking in and taking our seats, the audience participation was imminent with individuals waving at themselves and seeing the image facing them. The stage then consisted of 6 chairs with the two performers facing us. This began with an awkwardness from the performers, such as an audience would be, in a question and answer session after a show. Fong made a very clever piece using this idea; the status quo of the performers changing to then answering their own question of how they begin preparing for the piece through movement, trial and errors and critical evaluation of their selves. Their movements were meant to reminisce an uncertainty of performers, a nervousness and the mistakes made in solo and in duet rehearsals. These created very comical moments, allowing the audience to laugh and really hit home with us performers in the audience who have all felt this in preparation for a performance. Despite these awkward and nervous movements, the dancers were very engaging and still managed to show us elements that were well constructed despite the appearance of these feelings. Eventually, these all culminated in putting all these sequences together, with an element of the uncertainty still evident. Over all this well constructed comical piece, for me, was the highlight of the night.
Finally, our final piece was another male duet by Jasper Van Luijk, from the Netherlands. The stage was minimalist, but more expectant of what we would see from a contemporary dance piece – white floor and walls with a haze of colour to give substance. There was something similar to Rosso’s piece before- two male figures and their fight against one another with moments of collaboration. However, Luijk had made this more violent and for some jumpy audience members, hard to watch. We saw as beautiful contemporary movements soon lead to chaos and throwing the self of one dancers with large hits to the floor, eventually this stopping him in a still pile at the centre of the stage. The use of moveable lights were given to the other performer to highlight this crumpled image, leading to him providing graceful movements around the body . I felt that I lost concentration at times during this and perhaps leaving such a standard contemporary piece till the end was a wrong move after such an energetic and audience involving piece beforehand.