Having seen commissioned works in progress at Scratch Night in January, Lizzy Spight returned to see the finished pieces in Moving with the Times, the annual showcase for works by Oxfordshire based dance artists.  Here are her responses to them…

STONE’S THROW – AnaMorphic Dance Theatre

On stage two musicians in the back left corner, with horn and keyboard; pebbles spread all over the stage, on a big screen two children walking through a green landscape, eating sandwiches and leaving markers on the ground.  A man and a woman enter; they dance, talk, share childhood experiences and sandwiches, play with “markers”/ pebbles on the ground, run along pebble paths.

A girl comes onto stage, eating a sandwich, offering one to an older woman. The woman starts a conversation with a girl seen on screen, representing an angel who is about to take the woman “to the other side”. Realising what it means the woman becomes scared and pleads with the angel for time, but is finally ready to be taken by the hand and to follow the angel.

Charming ideas and some nice and flowing dance sequences, slightly too prolonged at times, with very good accompaniment by the musicians. Serious as well as eye twinkling moments kept the balance, but overall portraying a rather melancholic mood which was possibly appropriate for the theme: memories and markers in a life of changes.

INERTIA – Ana Barbour and Naomi Morris

Playing with the idea of “Inertia”, staying in a place of rest and/or the motivation to move and change, internal and external influences…

As endless and timeless as the theme is, so are Ana’s creative presentations and constantly changing images, flowing into each other with the lightness of a playing child (as for example when the “creature” under the rug starts to stretch out its arms using the rug as a radio). Also, thoughts are made visible, literally presented with the scribbling on a screen above the shadow of Ana’s person, her sitting in front of it in meditation. The possibilities Ana and Naomi show us with a variety of combinations of props, screen, movement and sound/voice is fascinating, surprising and a pleasure to watch. Malcolm Atkins’ compositions are the ideal accompaniment, as they have the same effect of endless variety and surprising twists, challenging our listening habits (another approach to “Inertia”).

The piece is framed by showing a planet on screen in combination with spoken scientific text and a clear voice explaining to us the world that we live in. This image appears at the beginning and the end. In between the fireworks of ideas which I would be keen to see more of!

ESCAPE ARTIST: IS THIS A DANCE(R)? Jenny Parrott (Trials in movement)

Jenny is exploring the depths of the performing artist’s challenge to face creative blanks and doubts, wanting to express something important but not knowing how…

The way she does it is to talk about it instead of dancing her dance. Having seen Jenny’s presentation at the Scratch Night, I expected a funny monologue about this dilemma, and I wasn’t disappointed. As she finally starts to dance it seems to break the concept a little bit and at the end she connects some honeycomb shaped textiles on the floor (which she used to read from at the beginning of her piece). For me it took some of the sharpness and dynamic of her observations away. The very strong point of this piece is Jenny’s talent as a comedian, using her props with ease and cleverly supporting her speech.

TRIPLE-ENTENDRE, Mnemosyne (Ségolène Tarte, Laura Addison and Malcolm Atkins)

This piece is fascinating on more than one level. With the depth of a philosophical/mythological approach to memory, and the rich image of Ségolène’s poem (I would have liked it to be read out on stage, or from a recorded source) it sets the stage for a quality performance. Language seems to be in the centre of this piece, expressed through the dance, performed by Ségolène and Laura, two very skilled dancers, and in connection with the illuminated strips on stage and good lighting they present a piece that is a pleasure to watch. Not only that: Malcolm Atkins’ composition is a sensitive addition to make the performance complete. In the first half it is a ballet/contemporary performance, following clear lines, exploring space, directions and dynamics. In the second half there is a change of costumes and dance style, it evokes for me an association of folk dance (Greek?) and foreign languages.  At this point Malcolm joins them on stage, playing the violin. It enhances the image of beauty and harmony that is presented.

Looking at the poem and the dance at the same time makes you think of even more associations and meanings. Language on many levels…

IT’LL TURN UP, Ellyfish & Things by Elly Crowther

Happiness…this is also a multi-level piece but in a different way, collecting words of wisdom about what happiness is, how to achieve it, what to wait for. The performers don’t wait, they rush from one action into another, combining lots of props and genres into a very dynamic play, maybe not trusting the power of one image at a time. It is entertaining, although I am not sure if I am watching a play for a children’s theatre or an absurd drama which deals with the seriousness of the pursuit of happiness.

Maybe it is not important…I just follow the action, enjoy the playfulness, be happy.

It leaves me only a little bit breathless at the end.

Lizzy Spight