We reprint this review with kind permission of the author on whose blog Rebecca Nice: Dance Writer it first appeared.

Jennifer Jackson and Susie Crow (BIG Ballets), Late Work, opened Wednesday 25th Septembers show sitting well within a billing of several collaborations between artists. This emphasis on collaboration was reiterated by dancers Crow and Jackson who invited musicians Malcolm Atkins and Andrew Melvin on stage by opening two side doors for their entrance. This introduced them as performers and set a precedent for the rest of the night. Built on improvisations between musicians and dancers, Late Work questioned the function of ballet and rebelled, albeit creatively, against its structures.

Divided into several sections with different sound scores, Crow and Jackson took the audience on their creative journey that aimed to question creative provocation for older dancers. They did this through recalling their traditional ballet training; revisiting ballet class by obeying commands boomed down from a voice above. ‘Arabesque‘, ‘tombé‘, ‘en avant‘… The functions of the learned rules of dance were turned around in this piece and used as creative tools for play rather than as orders to be obeyed. Playing on this idea, the most memorable of several sections was an almost frantic choreography to a sound-score of conflicting counts. Both musicians and performers counted out loud in different time signatures whilst Crow and Jackson also danced to their own counts. It would be exciting to see the complexities of this idea grow, to include more off-beats and counterpoint.

With a little bit of cheekiness the young girls in these two performers’ personalities competed to be queen bee, or leisurely made curves and circles with gentle sweeps of the arms, framing each other or walking side by side as dear friends. The indicative use of contrapposto, ‘épaulement’, and diagonal facings within a ballet vocabulary gave their work a stylistic identity that was reflective and responsive to traditional concepts rather than rejecting them.

After identifying in the programme that ‘Ballet is closely associated with youthful beauty and commonly regarded as a means of achieving athletic virtuosity’, Jackson and Crow cheekily performed a music-box like ‘port de bras’, whilst sat on chairs. They chopped and changed their shoes from outdoor boots to ballet shoes in way that showed the audience the workings of the piece rather than a fairy-tale facade.

Atkins and Melvin used spoken word, minimal sounds and haunting singing to create a dialogue of response between the performers. It was this reciprocal relationship between the four collaborators that linked each section together, whilst adding the element of risk to the playful performance.

Donald Hutera’s GOlive festival, staged at The Lion and Unicorn Theatre, Kentish Town, provided an open minded audience who were receptive to experimental pieces and works-in-progress with an ideal setting for unusual works with personality such as Late Work.

Rebecca JS Nice

14th October 2013