Dance, News, Performing arts, Reviews

Lucky dip of dance treats

Fringe World review: “MicroMove” curated by Shona Erskine & Harriet Roberts ·
The Blue Room Theatre, 13 February ·
Review by Nina Levy ·

“MicroMove” almost feels like a dance lucky dip. Curated by choreographer and dancer Dr Shona Erskine and Blue Room Theatre associate producer Harriet Roberts, the five-night program of local independent contemporary dance is comprised of a different combination of short works every night. Somewhat enigmatically, the Blue Room website has chosen not to offer a night-by-night listing of each program. Instead the works are listed alphabetically, with the nights each is playing listed under the description. Even if you do manage to commit to memory which works are being performed the night you’re attending (I didn’t) there’s no printed program indicating the running order, so each work comes as something of a surprise.

Tuesday night’s program opened with a self-devised solo from Natalie Allen entitled Climacteric. Tense and intense, Climacteric sees Allen trapped in a cycle of movement and a storm of amelodic sound (by Jack Burton). Now she lies prone on the floor. Shaking and quaking her malleable spine moves in ways that seems almost inhuman. Now upright, her limbs fling with seeming abandon in a phrase that is so fluid it must surely be improvised… but it isn’t; she repeats it again a few minutes later, fast, furious but precise. Now she hugs the wall, her arms trailing behind her, ready to begin the sequence again. As always,  Allen’s performance was compelling.

Next up was Tender, appropriately named in that it comes from the youngest choreographer on the “MicroMove” program, Michelle Aitken. Tender consists of three interwoven solos, performed here by Cheyenne Davis, Mani Mae Gomes and Holly Pooley. While the connection between the three dancers feels tenuous, each was lovely to watch in her own right. Gomes’ solo is loose and long-limbed, Pooley’s teeters between playful and sinister, Davis’ is measured as she lifts and places her limbs with care. The two doorways at the back of the stage are used effectively; dancers pass in and out of view, as though keeping an eye on one another. Less effective is the use of an exercise trampoline – it feels like more time and energy is spent assembling than using it. As a side note, Aitken may be young but she’s prolific – in addition to this short work she also choreographed and performed an impressive full-length solo work, Future’s Eve, as part of this Fringe season.

Steamworks Arts’ VOSS, choreographed and performed by Sally Richardson and Daisy Sanders, with live music from Joe Lui, was third. The title refers to Patrick White’s novel of the same name and, even without the benefit of a printed program to remind us that the book is set in outback Australia, the lazy, drawling notes of Joe Lui’s electric guitar and the dust that puffs from Sanders’ faded parasol transport us there with ease. The highlight of this piece is a duo in which Richardson draws a cello bow across Sanders’ body, a gesture that is touchingly tender. If this is the beginning of a longer work I’d like to see more.

It was Storm Helmore’s turn next, with a work entitled from one to the next. Intriguingly, the work is described as “an improvised response to choreographic material created on the day of each show”, which explains why Helmore announced a different title at the start of the show, An Empty Space, So Full Of Stuff. If it sounds quirky, that’s because it was, with Helmore taking an empty seat in the front row, whispering to the audience to try and establish who saved her the seat. It’s possible that only those close enough were able to hear, but for those who could, the effect was incredibly endearing. Such moments were interspersed with Helmore’s trademark luscious movement. A section in which her torso circled and arched was particularly absorbing. It’s tempting to return to “MicroMove just to see what Helmore does on her remaining nights.

Rounding out the evening was Denmark dance artist Annette Carmichael, performing her own work Air and Artefact, with live sound by James Gentle. Carmichael begins the work by suggesting that the audience move to the sides of the room, the better to see the floor, which she scatters with eggshells. Against Gentle’s soundscape, a cacophony of cracking and crumbling shells, Carmichael lunges, her limbs and torso unfurling. While the crunch of the shells is ridiculously pleasing (I had to restrain myself from a frenzy of crushing as we left the venue via the shell-strewn stage), it could be pushed further. A section in which Carmichael pirouettes, so that shells fly across the stage was wonderful and I wanted more of that, more eggshell-inspired chaos. As with VOSS, I am interested to see if this work will be developed.

While the combination of works will be different each night, I recommend you plunge your hand inside MicroMove lucky dip.

MicroMove plays the Blue Room Theatre until 17 February.

Pictured top: Annette Carmichael and James Gentle in “Air and Artefact”. Photo: Nic Duncan.

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