2Faced Dance Company celebrates its 20th anniversary at The Place

United KingdomUnited Kingdom 2Faced Dance Company’s EVERYTHING [but the girl]: The Place, London, 13.3.2019. (JO’D)

2Faced Dance Company’s 7.0 (c) Benjamin Statham

The Qualies
Choreography – Fleur Darkin
Music – Matthew Brown
Lighting Design – James Mackenzie

Dancers – Louis Parker-Evans, John Robinson, Will Hodson, Cameron Woolnough

Hollow in a World Too Full
Choreography – Tamsin Fitzgerald
Music – Alex Baranowski
Lighting Design – James Mackenzie

Dancer – Will Hodson

Choreography – Tamsin Fitzgerald
Music – Alex Baranowski
Lighting Design – James Mackenzie

Dancers – Louis Parker-Evans, John Robinson, Will Hodson, Cameron Woolnough, Sam Buswell

To celebrate its twentieth anniversary the all-male ‘physical theatre company’ 2Faced Dance presents a triple bill that includes work by Fleur Darkin (former Artistic Director of Scottish Dance Theatre) and the company’s own Founder and Artistic Director, Tamsin Fitzgerald. Darkin’s The Qualies, which opens the programme, is the most theatrically satisfying, but all three works showcase the physicality of the dancers and all benefit from James Mackenzie’s sensitive lighting.

Using a white floor and four chairs, four dancers in sportswear, and a large number of tennis balls, The Qualies examines ‘the connection between achievement and its opposite’. The title refers to the qualifying rounds of a tennis tournament, in particular the Canadian Open of 1995 as seen by writer David Foster Wallace in an assignment for Esquire magazine. Recorded extracts from the article, focusing on the player Michael Joyce, form much of the soundtrack to the piece.

There are no tennis racquets. The dancer-athletes bounce, balance, throw and catch the balls in ways that are more competitive than collaborative. Every so often they break out into more ‘danced’ solos with freer, fluid movement of shoulders, arms, and waists. ‘David’s essay reads like music’, Fleur Darkin writes in the programme notes. His words give the piece an intensity as it builds to a witty climax (involving tennis balls and a sustained handstand) and a surprisingly melancholic ending.

Where The Qualies is a brightly-lit treatise on sporting ambition, Tamsin Fitzgerald’s Hollow in a World Too Full is all black. Black-on-black: backstage spotlights arranged in columns gleam through a surrounding darkness to show a top-knotted, kilted dancer (Will Hodson) whose clothes are black. Behind the spotlights three musicians (clarinet, violin, cello) perform a fitting score by composer Alex Baranowski. With his body never far from the floor, the dancer shudders, growls and laughs hysterically as he reacts to stimuli in the form of low-wattage lightbulbs suspended above him. Although interestingly costumed and convincingly danced, the piece is most striking for the ‘darkness visible’ of its staging.

7.0 is a ‘reduxed’ version of a work by Tamsin Fitzgerald first premiered in 2011 and created in response to a humanitarian aid visit to Haiti after the earthquake of 2010. It has been given a new score by Alex Baranowski for clarinet, violin, percussion and piano. The beginning suggests aftermath. Five dancers, in darkness first of all, brush dust from their clothes as they rise from the floor. When they begin to dance, the piece somehow becomes heavy-handed and superficial at the same time.

Several synchronised sequences of movement are effective, and a brief duet (or almost duet) towards the end is suggestive of something deeper. It would be nice to see it developed. Elsewhere, the men do what healthy, young, athletic dancers can do: barrel turns, spins, falls to the floor. It is their energy that gives the piece a forward momentum, and earn it a standing ovation from some of the audience. Yet, from a theatrical point of view, the final raising of one hand, one pointed finger, is a gesture of triumph too easily reached.

 John O’Dwyer

For more about 2Faced Dance Company click here.

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