A Couple of Charmers

A review of The Company I Keep @ Tempo Dance Festival 2012

Choreography: Catherine Chappell (for Touch Compass.)
Director: Finegan Kruckemeyer (for Second Echo)

at Q Theatre, Rangatira, Auckland
From 20 Oct 2012 to 21 Oct 2012
[1 hour]

Reviewed by Jesse Quaid, 21 Oct 2012 http://www.theatreview.org.nz

4 o’clock seems early to be heading into a dance show, but the crowd that gathers in the Rangatira Theatre at Q, although not great in numbers, are an appreciative audience for this enchanting double bill.

Seamless opens with The Company I Keep, by Second Echo Ensemble. This is a charming piece, built around simple repeated, gestural movement. The simplicity of the movement used allows the sincerity and personalities of the performers to come through clearly. Indeed, the human-ness of the performers is one of the great strengths of this work, we are drawn into their worlds.

The work begins with a projection against a white box seat. Placed almost at the front of the stage the projection is obviously an important feature of the piece but often became lost when competing with the movement.

Dancers enter the stage one at a time, taking their place in personal spotlights. The women in their bright dresses stand out sharply against the black of the stage and the suits worn by the men. Gradually performers fill the stage with tic-like movements that open out into a unison phrase. This ensemble position is returned to several times throughout the work, providing an anchor for the various duets and occasional solos that make up the bulk. The pairings are generally performed in isolation and each show a different type of relationship. Father and son, mother and daughter; both are anxious and a little fraught. A perfect man is created and lost. We are shown ten ways to fall asleep, ten ways to fall in love in a gentle and tender set of posed duets. With the whole cast involved sibling interactions provide a nicely comic tone. They chase each other, breaking out of the largely static staging and providing a beautiful burst of chaotic energy, unravelling for a moment the otherwise deliberate pacing.

In one of the few solo moments a boy with red hair stands spotlight, his hands and upper body weaving simple yet detailed patterns. It is mesmerising.

There is a darker side to this exploration of relationships, shadowy figures abound and happiness seems unattainable. A man eats chocolates from a box while the pair demonstrate falling in love. He eats, mechanically, compulsively as if the sweets will make everything alright. They don’t. He leaves. The emotional variations are shown to us but never deeply investigated. The music enhances this feeling, always apt, but never unexpected. At the end the spotlights slowly fade on each performer, returning them to darkness. It is a sombre note, although the final image is a boy and a girl, perched on the box seat, sharing a kiss.

After a long pause to clear the stage the second piece begins. Spring by Touch Compass provides an interesting mix of eclectic and uplifting. It starts with two women, two men and two boxes. As they navigate the space it seems that both the boxes and the men are there as supports for the two women, sometimes wanted, sometimes not. This feeling is enhanced by the bright colours the women wear, contrasting the drab colours of the men’s suits. Their perambulations curious; a little too serious to be play but too inquisitive to be wholly serious. Alisha McLennan balances on a box. She stands, falls forward. Is caught by the waiting Matt Gibbons, the boxes shuffled forward like a train by Adrian Smith until she stands again. Sarah Houbolt chases a spotlight across stage, posed with her box before the light moves again.

The bungies introduce a new chapter in the work. As performers are attached sporadic pieces of dance continue, but are almost perfunctory. The bungies, arranged in pairs, allow each duet to revolve around the same centre. Alisha and Adrian at the front have a softer energy while Matt and Sarah are cleaner and showier. Movement becomes weightless lending a dreamlike quality to the work. It looks like fun. There are moments of empathetic bliss as bodies float or dive through the space. These are interspersed however with a few awkward maneuvers, it feels like the limits and possibilities of this form have yet to be fully explored and mastered. It would be interesting to see the bungies integrated more fully into a choreographic structure as by itself it becomes less engaging. Still, at the end there is a feeling of euphoria, a memory of bodies flying joyously through space.

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