“Contemporary dance” is one of several phrases projected onto the backcloth of Adam Benjamin’s The Birth of Memory. I took it (along with “motif”, “duet”, “time is watching” and suchlike) to indicate that the piece was pointing to itself. Performed by two women and two men – one, with cerebral palsy, performs first in, then out of his wheelchair – the work has several motifs: a turntable arc of the arms, some hand-wringing, backwards walking, watchful circlings, purposeful diagonals. Despite moments of passing beauty and fleeting significance, nothing coheres. “Contemporary dance” can point to its own processes, but to stay inside them risks solipsism.
“Contemporary dance” can point to its own processes, but to stay inside them risks solipsism.
Adrian Look’s Sisyphus’ Wife is flushed with symbolism and emotion. With the mien of a romantic poet, Look mopes at his desk, rolling a shiny steel ball – the impossible object of unattainable perfection – up a ramp; and watching it roll back down. Maria Ines Sousa, as his wife, has her own object: a brown lump, misshapen, imperfect. She lets it stay put, on a stand. Their duet of crossed paths sees Look reaching and swooning, as restless as the Mahler melody that accompanies him; Sousa clings to and rebuts him, all earthly need and conflicted desire. Fine performances save the piece from becoming overblown.
Lorea Burge and Hannah Parsons’ Unbaptised Infants is random, goofy, low-key and loopy. Taking off trackie jackets to reveal spangly tops beneath, the pair recite rhythmic poems – word salads, really – called “Capitalism”, “Contrast”, “Matter” and so on. Then they do a dancey analogue: quirky, articulated, nonsensical. Using a microphone and live audio playback, they knit random words and moves together into a texture of aural and visual non-sequiturs, eventually adding a layer of humming harmony and finishing with a recitation of the playback words as another poem. The poem makes no sense on its own; compositionally, it makes complete sense. The second the piece is over, you want to watch it again, to figure out how it works with hindsight.