Saturday 10th November, Peter Catmull Theatre, Hythe: instepdance.co.uk
Thursday 29th November, Pavilion Dance, Bournemouth: paviliondance.org.uk
The Incredible Presence of a Remarkable Absence is the wonderfully apt title of Lila Dance's new 50 minute re-imagining of the world created by Samuel Becket in Waiting For Godot.
Entering the black cube of Salisbury Arts Centre's Main Space after the interval, the semblance of low mist at early dawn swirled from the dust covered floor. Four characters entered in hats of the pork pie/trilby/tweedy type and carrying small hessian sacks that spoke to me more of migrant hopefuls than Becket's shabby-chic end-of-the-roaders.
But the patterns on the floor as these eloquent bodies moved through the space, drew me in. The dancers connected with individual audience members, growing an intimate sense of involvement as they each revealed their peculiar personalities. Solemn or sad faces and sudden mood shifts created the uncertain atmosphere, but the Hat Dance made me smile and soon I too was involved in the waiting.
Swung between fragmented text and incredibly fluid, connected bodies I was drawn ever further into the stillness that is my own personal mode of waiting. The burden of these four uneasy characters killing time before my eyes, became my burden. I felt somehow in danger of loosing myself under the weight of it.
Disability, interdependence, manipulation, tenderness - issues that fought for attention while I watched, waited and absorbed movements that bypassed any kind of reason or rational thought, linking directly to my instinct and emotions.
By the end it seemed I had journeyed somewhere precarious and was not sure I would find my way back, my headspace now haunted with supplementary images of Munch's Scream and Kierkegaard's slightly odd love-letters.
Heavier than the pre-show handouts indicated, it really needed single billing. I needed to create space around it and in so doing, risked loosing sight of the humorous and sensual 'Not About Love' duet that had entertained me before the 20minute interval.
I am changed
or am I? Is it
my love that
or your love
that sees me
I am changed
or am I? No, or
Yes. And yes
I am changed
of how or why;
Shambolic as it turned out to be, my London 2012 day was an accidental success, so sitting in the dark with a dubious view of the Queen Elizabeth Hall stage, the edge of my apprehension was blunted by an ok exhaustion.
My first impressions of a group of murderous sticks served to reinforce the stereotypes generated by my crutches Fred and George; I sent frequent glances towards the putative security of the exits.
Nameless as Claire Cunningham's crutches were, they still managed to sign Fred and George menacingly in my direction until the magical moment when Claire deftly dismembered Fred. Secret joy bubbled in my throat, as I went on to see her pulling sticks to pieces, with calculated intensity.
The primitive and Oz-innocent scarecrow she put together with sticky tape could have been delicious revenge, but Claire's poignant, haunting words and powerful dance indicated a totally different relationship.
The joyful bubble burst into metaphorical tears as my heart ached with her exploration of loneliness and isolation.
The happily-ever-after option hinted at by injections of humour, was, like me, left behind by whimsical mood shifts that took me full circle back to my own relationship with those uncomfortable, impersonal objects I name Fred and George.
Nit-picking, I'm going to say that some clever and very beautiful stage design at times outstayed it's welcome; one lengthy, intense background sound bullied it's way forward to painfully dominate my headspace and a too-long age of writhing about on the floor in the semi-dark left me thinking of my missed train.
Apart from these small issues of timing, this was as polished and professional a performance as anyone could have have wished for.
And a magical glimpse into life's lonely-moments that we can all, one way or another, identify with.
I arrive with baggage.
The venue does nothing
to release me into
it's offer of magic.
Servants of archaic
bricks and mortar send me
hither and thither. With
smiles and apologies,
I'm set free in a dark,
steep cavern to await
the Menage a Trois.
So many wheelborne,
give this old edifice
an unexpected weight.
I've been thinking more about visibility since Wednesday when I watched a fantastic performance by StopGAP. In dance, the wheelchair attempts to shed its magical cloaking properties and without it a dancer’s personal space shrinks to that required by skin and bone.
Dancer Laura Jones set me thinking about my own special relationship with metal, rubber and memory foam. Never having worked with a wheelchair before, choreographer Thomas Noone took Laura's away. And enabled the most explicit piece of Disability Art I personally have ever seen danced. The storyline of Within was almost a distraction.
Here was a work that acknowledged and explored the visibility and invisibility: the need to be larger than life; a work that played with the symbolic and made wheelchair substitutes out of people; a work that boldly acknowledged the elephant in the room and made the absent wheelchair the hero.
The dance was breathtaking; the timing, the risk-taking: an emotional roller-coaster and the sense of commitment and solidarity: heart-wrenching. This was StopGap being superb.
I came away from the performance wondering if I’ve taken for granted that blurring of the line between me and my chair; if having my personal space reinforced by metal rods and spikes has altered my perception of where I belong within it and how I present to strangers. Unable to escape the comfort of memory foam, I may have lost something important to me.
never touched the ground
though my body ached
to embrace it. Eyes,
resenting the lines
a bland point of view,
rejoiced to be free.
And the price, the pain,
the good and the bad:
laughter and weeping
My body ached though
my feet never touched
StopGAP Dance Company took Trespass to Salisbury Arts Centre as part of their current tour; it features Within (Thomas Noone) and Splinter (Rob Tannion).
Their next performance is on 8th March at Marlowe Studio, The Friars, Canterbury, Kent CT1 3AS