If the look is corporate, the language is street. The massed dancers of What is Written Dance Company’s Awakening may be kitted out in white shirts, black jackets and ties but they move with the hunched shoulders, punchy skitters and in-your-face attitude of street dance. It’s an uneasy mix – and it’s that very unease that choreographers Viviana Rocha and Jean Pierre seek to mine. Squadrons of office types encounter feral gangs. Well-dressed alpha-males circle each other like wolves. The tie becomes a talisman of an oppressive law – variously donned, rejected or submitted to. Yet the work overstays its welcome: the surface dynamism soon overpowers its underlying material.
Kuan-Yu Chen’s Trace Collector has the opposite issue: it’s a short, intriguing duet that feels like a sketch for something more substantial. Valerie Ebuwa appears in a moth-eaten woolly, undulating around the stage in measured, elastic motion: lopsided stretches, elastic rolls and backbends. When Chen enters she seems like an alter ego – in similar costume, with similar style. Shadowing, echoing and mirroring each other, the pair never quite connect personally: even a tight embrace feels less like a close encounter than an impediment to the flow of movement. It’s a thoughtful piece, but hasn’t yet come into focus.
Maria Miguel Rodrigues’s (UN)ONES has the most solid structure, binding its ideas to its material. The prologue – a somewhat redundant video of spinning red-green-blue blobs – soon gives way to a short series of scenes offsetting individuals from groups, or one group from another. Ten dancers clump into a square of light, then take off their grey tops to show individually coloured t-shirts. There are running rings, overlapping time-frames, break-outs from tight-knit clusters – all deftly handled, without straining for effect. Currently it still feels a little underdone, but it shows considerable promise.