United Kingdom, Baranowski, MacRae, Dreaming in Code: 2Faced Dance, The Place, London, 10.3.2015 (J.O’D)
Dancers: Jason Boyle, Jack Humphrey, Chris Knight, Luke Rigg, Ed Warner
Choreographer, Lucid Grounds: Tamsin Fitzgerald
Choreographer, milk night: Eddie Kay for Frantic Assembly
Original Music Composition: Alex Baranowski and Angus MacRae
Lighting Design: James Mackenzie
Costume Design: Garance Marneur and Susan Kulkarni
The ‘all male, urban dance company’ 2Faced Dance was founded in 1999 by a woman, Tamsin Fitzgerald, who trained at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance. In Dreaming in Code, its five dancers perform one work by Fitzgerald and one by choreographer, movement director and fellow NSCD graduate, Eddie Kay. Kay’s milk night is a piece of physical theatre that tries to imagine how men would survive in a world without women. Although disjointed, it uses words and movement as if to expose the emotions of each one of its performers, and of the audience. Fitzgerald’s Lucid Grounds is a seamless spectacle of dance and light, ostensibly on the subject of dreams and memory, which takes its five dancers more at face value.
On a stage occupied by three tents and several empty milk bottles, the men of milk night speak to their absent girlfriends in garbled monologues of incomprehension, longing and pain. Two of them speak, simultaneously, as their girlfriends in garbled monologues of nagging complaint. Individually, the men mostly twist and jerk their bodies while rooted to the spot. Collectively, they find comfort in stylish disco dancing, under a revolving glitter ball, to the sounds of Ain’t Gonna Bump No More (With No Big Fat Woman).
As movement director on Barely Methodical Troupe’s Bromance, which opened this year’s London International Mime Festival, Eddie Kay used light, darkness, and physical proximity to investigate intimacy between men. One particularly effective device was to have someone suddenly appear for the first time centre stage, beside someone else who the audience had already seen. In milk night, this device is used again. And these men, too, seem to challenge each other through their stance and their gaze.
But the subject, here, is the relation between young men and women. One of the girlfriends makes an appearance via a Skype connection that is projected on the side of a tent. We see her talking, but can not hear what she says. The man who is her boyfriend then emerges from the same tent in a white nightdress. The piece ends on an uncertain embrace between this man and one of the others. To survive in a world without women, these men must become like their girlfriends.
For Tamsin Fitzgerald’s Lucid Grounds the stage of The Place is transformed into a cube of darkness that lighting designer James Mackenzie illumines by a grid of overhead spotlights. The floor is outlined in a thin strip of fluorescent blue. Five lengths of reflective material hang from the back wall.
Lighting is the most engaging element of the piece. Their swirling movements accentuated by full-skirted coats, jackets, and one sleeveless cape, of uniform grey, the dancers cross the stage diagonally en bloc to Alex Baranowski’s rapid, cinematic score. They separate into pairs or groups. They dance alone in front of the reflective hangings. Sustained and physically demanding as it is, Lucid Grounds comes close to being an extended ‘number’ or ‘routine’ for a group of athletic, male, urban dancers. It is the lighting, always, that stands out: the wall of smoke-filled light through which the men pass; the sudden shift to a single spotlight under which they all gather; the switch to light from the wings; the harsh, cold light that shines on the audience at the end.