Friday, 5 December 2014

Emerge Festival 18-22nd November- Review

Since 2012, Emerge has provided a unique platform for those who are curious, creative, and looking to come into their own as choreographic artists. Various platforms offer similar kinds of support and exposure to budding choreographers, yet Emerge is unique in offering its artists a full, week- long run of their work at The Space- a quirky and convenient Theatre located in East London.

Opening the second- to-last night of the third and final week of this year’s festival was Lee Griffiths’ Behind Every Man, a female quartet that certainly isn’t shy of a little grit. Legs spread, resembling in body and voice that of someone under a curse of intense physical torture, is how a single dancer introduces the piece. And the rest, after mounting themselves into shiny black pairs of platformed shoes which neatly await them on stage, are no less impressive at investing full body and intent into a work with deep underlining motives.  Hunched shoulders, twitchy heads and claw-like hands give a Batsheva/Shecter kind of flavour to the material, and multiple costume/prop fixes, a sense of absurdity. Powerful and poignant are these dancers, both as individuals and as a collective. 

It’s For You by Timothy Clark and James Morgan follows, and it has to be said that this is a duo certainly worth catching. Beginning kind of like a play with terrible acting, the pair seem confused by their mutual existence. But what comes to be is improvisation at its best, and the wittiest of parodies of what’s fit for the stage.  
A plastic bag and dustpan and brush drive much of the duo’s comical interaction, yet interspersed with verbal dialogue is also seamless, airy dancing. A hilarious injection into the programme, these are artists with fruitful prospects.

‘An autobiographical study that explores difficult and personal memories’ reads the programme note for Luke Brown’s 11:11. The set up is a little like that from a thriller- a dim lit room, a flickering TV, voices heard on a radio and an unsettling clown doll. But then there is Brown, who when moving in his snaky, whole-bodied fashion, brings about a vulnerability and delicacy to the eeriness. Melancholic this piece at times is, but consistent, not so much. The atmosphere is broken at points with absurd mimicking of the freaky clown, and contortions on an old wooden chair.  Us watching Brown watch a video recorded wedding is perhaps the only source that lends itself well to the written description of the work.

Mental illness is a reoccurring theme when it comes to choreographic stimulus, and when done badly, it makes the prospect of watching another slightly daunting. Having geared up for some heavy-hearted portrayal, it was surprising to instead be fully entertained, in parts, by Natasha Lee and her cluster of women in S.A.D? Getting down to Bob Marley, all smiles, and in pajamas was questionable (and delightful), but against the moments when heart, soul and a wealth of honesty were poured into depicting anxiety and self-doubt, it gave a vivid insight into the seemingly ferocious highs and lows of a mental illness sufferer. S.A.D? Incorporates many interesting facets and its messages are clear, I think it could have done without the unsubtle voiceover.

Brian Gillespie’s Interconnection is borderline one of those pieces that have managed to creep its way in to many a recent dance platform- that not being a bad thing. In silence on a bare stage, Gillespie explores his bare torso. Isolating, quaking, rippling, shifting, all under a wash that magnifies the slightest muscular feature. ‘An exploration of the body’s reaction to music’ is the description in Gillespie’s words, and while that is an interesting idea, visually it could be mistaken as an improvisation, in which the movement stays more or less the same and the music changes. Nevertheless, a pleasing an uncomplicated number all the same.

Promises, created by Emerge’s founder Adam Towndrow was no lighthearted conclusion to the evening. Instead, a politically driven, dense and hard-hitting duet which packs sincere domination and female prowess. Melanie Simpson takes a firm grip on the audience’s attention with her evocative presence as she stands centre stage, completely still, while Hayley Chilvers crawls and squirms around on the floor beside her.  The pair embark on a turbulent and ferocious journey by which we remain captivated. Chilvers masters dominance with a wholehearted investment, and Simpson, a vulnerability that’s truly moving. These dancers commit to their actions and motives to such an extent that their pain, sweat and fatigue is felt by all, and there safety is feared for. For once, gasping for breath is authentic- everything this duet is saying is believable. Promises, without doubt is deserving of much bigger stages and audiences. 

By Bryony Cooper 

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