United Kingdom Various composers, Wild Card: Tim Casson – Casson & Friends, Sadler’s Wells (Lilian Baylis Studio), London, 18.03.2015 (J.O’D)
Performers: Rosie Terry and The Copter
Pilot: Jack Bishop
Choreography: Nina Kov
Lighting Design: Lucy Hansom
Original Score: Paul Child
Costume: Alice Hoult
Production Designer: Max Worgan
Sonata in 3 Movements
Performers: Elisa Vassena and Benjamin Hooper
Choreography: Cornelia Voglmayr
Performer: Tim Casson
Choreography: Tim Casson
Computer Programming and Operation: Tom Butterworth
Music: Claude Debussy, Jamie McCarthy
Costuming: Jay Barry Matthews
Lighting Design: David Salter
The Dance WE Made 4
Performers: Oliver Fitzgerald, Chloe Mead, Sarah Blanc, Jen Irons
Concept and Direction: Tim Casson
Music: Modern Mammal
Collaboration 1: For Dust You Are
Dancer and Choreographer Robert Guy
Filmmaker: Alisa Boanta
Collaboration 2: Untitled
Actor/Musician: Tim van Eyken
Dancer/Choreographer: Dani B Larsen
The theme of this Wild Card event was collaboration: dancer and filmmaker; dancer and singer; dancer and musician; choreographer and audience. (…..‘But don’t worry about that now,’ an affable Tim Casson told us at the start.) What also marked Casson & Friends, the choreographer/dancer’s chance to present his own work alongside work by artists that excites him, was its delicate blending of dance, as we know it, with different and sometimes pervasive forms of technology.
Casson is currently a Catalyst artist at dancedigital, a ‘hub-organisation that catalyses creative development and exchange in digital dance practices’. His own ‘solo’, Fiend, mixes dance with live video that is manipulated at an on-stage desk by a computer programmer. When the dancer rises from a curled up position on floor to the music of Debussy’s Prélude à L’Après-midi d’un faune, his grey-and-white, slightly blurred, filmed counterpart does the same. But the latter leaves an image of himself in the original position. A dancer rising from his own body was the first of several moments in this ‘magical’ dance (which uses other music besides Debussy’s) that lead you to question which is real: the Casson you see, in colour, on the stage of the Lilian Baylis Studio, or the ‘ghost in the machine’ versions on the screen behind him.
The collaboration of Nina Kov’s Copter is between a female dancer (Rosie Terry) and a remote-controlled model helicopter. Dressed in a swimming costume and protective, plastic goggles, and with a blue hood over her shoulders, the woman dreams up or is disturbed from her sleep by this now playful, now sinister object. It rests in her hand like a bird. It buzzes around her at different heights like an insect (perhaps a gadfly). It moves between her legs like a sexual partner. Its blue light seems to regard the audience with suspicion as it hovers on a level with our eyes. When it is replaced, temporarily, by a camera-equipped drone, this dancer, too, is doubled on the screen. The focus here, though, is not on perception but surveillance.
Other pieces are less technology-driven. Sonata in 3 Movements, by Cornelia Voglmayr, puts dancer Elisa Vassena together with violinist Benjamin Hooper. If it is Hooper who first calls the tune, Vassena soon picks up the microphone to give this non-dancer dance instructions: ‘Bring your sitting bones for a walk!’; ‘Reach China with your heels!’; ‘Smiley knees!’ ‘Less flirty!’. And the game Hooper has to do all of it while still holding the violin. This sprightly but serious study of music and movement, will later show Vassena (who scoops air with a foot), holding the violin’s bow suspended between her toes and one of her temples, or balancing both it and the instrument across her feet as she lies with her legs raised to the vertical.
In the First Contact part of the evening, held in the Kahn Lecture Theatre, the brief, sensual For Dust You Are projects film of a dancer’s semi-naked, moving body on to his broad, bare and mostly static back (presented to the audience throughout). Untitled mixes only the human voice, of both singer and dancer, with human dance. The audience for this movingly performed piece, with its song about a soldier who died at Waterloo, stood in a circle around the dancer.
The Dance WE Made, the ongoing, online performance project created by Tim Casson in 2012, was the penultimate stage of a particularly rich and forward-looking Wild Card evening. Four, blue T-shirted dancers had moved around the Sadler’s Wells café from the beginning of the evening. By talking to members of the arriving audience, they had produced a dance to be performed at the end. There may be a certain default perkiness about the final result, but the The Dance WE Made project will always reflect what a twenty-first century audience is thinking and doing.
As Course Leader for The National Youth Dance Company, Tim Casson knows how to ‘scaffold’ a task. For the collaboration between choreographer and audience he stood at the front of the stage, reassuring but firm, to give instructions. And the simple, three-stage dance he created will always be retained in my non-dancer’s ‘muscle memory’. In keeping with Casson’s dedication to the digital, both this dance and the preparations for it were filmed. About that, I can only say, like Sarah Bernhardt, ‘Quand même!’