Itamar Serussi Sahar‘s Undo looks like it’s been made with 3D modelling software and a digital video editor. The five dancers, in form-hugging tights, move as if someone were twiddling with their buttons: arms paddle stiffly, heads vibrate, there are odd spinal kinks and splat-footed jumps. Everything is timed to a taut electronic beat, and the composition has the control-freakish feel of a geek at a keyboard: phrases are mirrored, multiplied, rotated, rewound, speeded up, and there’s a recurring freeze-frame tableau.Undo has a high visceral impact: even when standing still the dancers sometimes pulse in place, and we register the effect as if our own eyes were throbbing. The dancers are superbly drilled, and if we don’t see them as personalities we never forget that they’re flesh and blood.
Lexi Bradburn’s Backing Dancer is a jukebox piece: a sequence of classic popular songs (sung live by amiable crooner Steve Jeffery), accompanied by a trio of female dancers. The backing dancers start out smooth and swishy, but later take swipes at Jeffery with their feathered fans, eyeball him with blunt hostility, or upstage him altogether. There are some comic moments – dancers slinking off when Jeffery comes over all operatic; an unhappy octopus costume – but overall this is only faintly amusing as entertainment, and faintly interesting as choreography.
Backing Dancer has a clear premise but weak material; Briar Adams’ Surface Tension is the reverse. It’s also a much better piece, which goes to show that effects are more telling than intentions. True, Surface Tension often mines a generic modern-dance middle ground – amenable music, hefty-flowy-swoopy dancing – but sometimes the choreography comes into its own, as in one episode where the eight dancers are tugged side to side in ragged patterns, so that you sense both the tidal undercurrent of the composition and the splashy textures of the individual phrases. If the piece sometimes seems to cast about for a purpose, in such scenes it doesn’t need one.