Aporia, presented by Thomas Page Dances at the Old Fire Station last night, is a work of gruelling physicality. It is also didactic and earnest, and felt at times like a lecture illustrated by movement. Billed as an investigation that explores social unrest and the relationship between peace and conflict, the work’s movement vocabulary is vigorous to the point of violence: the dancers throw themselves at the floor landing hard on their hands and feet, contort their backs twisting into backbends with rolling ankles, or confront each other like martial arts practitioners (Page had early training in kick-boxing). Page is not limited by adherence to a specific dance system, and seems to have devised his own training method: company class includes a programme, referred to with some dread by the dancers, as ‘The Ten’, in addition to improvisation and work based on whichever piece is in performance.

During the post-show question and answer session, Page emphasised his collaborative and interdisciplinary creative approach, and that every performance is different. Last night, in addition to the actor-narrator Annika Kordes, there were only three dancers, Clara Cowen, Llewelyn Lewis, and Taylor Han; two performers (one a break-dancer) were ‘off’ due to injury and Han, remarkably, had replaced both of them at short notice.

‘Aporia’ is a state of perplexity or bewilderment. Kordes (whose voice I like very much) opens the work speaking a monologue, which sometimes slips into French or German, on the theme of conflict and peace, and the paradoxical compulsion to use violence to bring about peace. This contradiction brings about a state of ‘aporia’. Kordes introduces the metaphor of the island, which may be a place of peace, until we encounter another human being there, but the work is firmly focussed on human conflict rather than on physical surroundings. Afterwards, the dancers spoke of creating their own world, but this was clearly a psychological or social space rather than a literal one, and during the performance, changes in the lighting through blue, red and violet, along with billowing dry ice, added visual effect rather than conjuring up a place. The costumes, pyjama trousers and loosely layered T-shirts, did not evoke a specific time or location, but helped to situate the work in a grey area between the abstract and the literal. This was a space that was full of confrontation and hostility but without specific context; rather, Page explained, the movement was situated within an atmosphere.

Page stated that everyone can have their own interpretation of his work, and to me the level of aggression in the performance last night felt disturbingly high, and the mood authoritarian rather than questioning. Perhaps this was the performers’ unconscious response to political confrontations in the wider world. If, as Page asserts, a work reaches a ‘moment’ in the creative process, not an end, this showing was a staging post at a particular point in time when external political resonances possibly provoked a focus on the conflicts within the work.   There was certainly very little about peace.

Maggie Watson

28th July 2019

 

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