United Kingdom Various composers, Resolution 2016: Wall, In Good Company, Behind Every Man: Pierre Tappon/Rambert, Joel & Pete, with Inky Cloak, The Company, The Place, London, 23.1.2016 (J.O’D)
Dancer: Daniel Davidson
Musician: Emma Williams
Music: Bach: Partita in A Minor, BWV 1013 I Allemande, III Sarabande and II Corrente
In Good Company
Dancers: Joel O’Donoghue, PJ Hurst
Musician: Pete Yelding
Choreography: Joel O’Donoghue
Music: In Good Company by Pete Yelding
Behind Every Man
Dancers: Charlotte Blakeman, Christina Dion, Jordan Douglas, Pola Krawczuk, Joshua Nash, Sean Osinlaru, Ezra Owen, Hayleigh Sellors
Choreography: Lee Griffiths
Composer: Torben Lars Slyvest
Music: Be my Husband by Nina Simone; Lonely hour part 1 by Shackleton; Burf by Torben Lars Slyvest
Two men stand, barefoot, at the side of the performance space. One steps into the centre to begin Joel & Pete’s In Good Company, the second and most satisfyingly shaped work on this Resolution 2016 triple bill of new dance. There is something thrilling in his definite and controlled gestures as he sets out to explore movement.
He is dressed in grey trousers and a yellow T-shirt. His companion, heavier and bigger built, wears white trousers and a turquoise-coloured shirt with long sleeves. These everyday clothes (though in colours carefully chosen) belie the nature of the movements that the men make to music provided by the musician who accompanies them on the stage. Their movements shift between the lyrical, the acrobatic, the comic and the intriguing. Sometimes they are all four at once.
The programme note is a description of a place called Seaford beach. So the middle distance into which the two men often gaze must be the sea. There are references, in their actions, to seaside pursuits such as bingo (one of the men calls out the numbers), golf and fishing. A body becomes a deck chair. The men end the piece, differently dressed from how they started it, sitting on the floor with their knees bent. But they turn in clockwork unison, like Blake’s sunflower as it counts the steps of the sun.
The opening and closing works on the triple bill are not so satisfying. This is not because of any fault in the choreography, though there may be faults. It is because the former needs something adding to it, the latter something taking away.
Wall, by the Rambert dancer Pierre Tappon, places a solo flautist and solo dancer on the stage. The flautist plays Bach; the dancer moves between a vertical section of grey plywood (the wall) and a square of light on the floor. Daniel Davidson, Tappon’s colleague at Rambert, begins the piece clinging to the top of the plywood. What happens over the ten minutes that follow is compelling when one or other part of the dancer’s thin, restless body (hands, fingertips, shoulders, feet) is in contact with it. When he performs in the square of light that represents emotional rather than physical barriers, the sense of urgency decreases.
The Company’s Behind Every Man seems to be several dance pieces put together as one. Eerie and enigmatic, like a painting by Paula Rego or Leonora Carrington come to life, it contains the evening’s coup de théâtre: six dancers, identically dressed in black tops and culottes of deep red (the men with bare feet, the woman in platform-soled boots), waltz or quickstep unexpectedly on to the stage.
Each section of the work outdoes the one that came before in its sense of disquiet. But by the time Nina Simone is singing Be my Husband on the soundtrack, and a man has put on boots to replace one of the women in a tortured trio with two of the other men, the piece has lost dramatic coherence. It could have ended, powerfully, when the waltzing, quickstepping dancers freeze into individual poses that leave their bodies uncannily shaped around that of an invisible partner.