Lucy Suggate and James Holden’s performance of Pilgrim, an investigation into what it is to lose yourself in music, is unforgettable. The theatre was dimly lit, the light diffused by a tinge of pink and blue, with chairs arranged around the edge of the room to leave as much performance space as possible. It was a wet night, and our shoes left damp patches on the dance floor as we edged around it to our seats, but fortunately Lucy Suggate is a ‘terpsichore in sneakers’ – literally – wearing tracksuit bottoms and a long dark shirt buttoned to the neck, which in time she removes revealing a gleaming mosaic-encrusted evening top.

She enters, sits for a moment like a member of the audience, and takes a large bottle of water from a rustling carrier-bag. Then she rises and begins to move to the almost painfully pure tones of James Holden’s electronic music. As she makes careful, precise steps, her minimalist movement seems deceptively simple. Suggate makes dance feel like an ordinary part of life. It is almost as if she is a member of the audience, responding to the music; we can see when she is hot, or thirsty, or tired, and she works with a vocabulary of such natural-looking movement that I had to pinch myself to remember that this was a highly skilled and intentional dance.

Suggate finds different movement motifs for each section of the music, whether it is working and reworking a series of repeated movements in a vertical two-dimensional plane from corner to corner on the diagonal, or curling and uncurling as if emerging from a shell on the floor. At other times, she responds to the hints of folk and ethnic rhythms in the music with pivot steps or beating her feet on the ground like a Kathak dancer. From her restrained opening steps, her energy gradually builds until toward the close she is centre stage, curved forward, repeating a hand sequence as if mesmerized by the repetitions in the music, before she begins to rotate with more and more intensity until she finally whirls round and round … into darkness. It all took about 45 minutes, and afterwards I realised that Suggate, by physically embodying the music before our eyes while we sat surrounding her in total stillness, had danced not so much in front of us, as on our behalf.

Maggie Watson

8 January 2017

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