Originally made to Kevin Volans’ string quartet of the same name, White Man Sleeps (1988) is performed here to a less familiar sound, his earlier arrangement for harpsichords, viola da gamba and percussion. In making this work Davies experimented with internally complex pathways of movement: how motion arises deep within the core of the body and flows through its joints, its hinges – and how these inner impulses spill outwards, sending the dancers streaming through space.
While White Man Sleeps uses intricate body movement within simple spatial designs, Bank (1997) extends the sophistication of both, with an underlying clarity of form overlaid by a richly embellished surface of movement. Plain floor patterns become amplified in the body and through space, developing into tight interlacings that leave the patterns they trace hanging in the air like an afterimage.
tight interlacings that leave the patterns they trace hanging in the air like an afterimage.
By contrast, The Art of Touch (1995) begins with dense knots of movement and ends in a looser, more open vein. Davies responded to the distinctly modern dynamic in Scarlatti’s music, the dancers matching the brilliant timbre and dextrous rigour of his harpsichord sonatas with a zestful, spiky vigour. In the second half Scarlatti is echoed by Matteo Fargion’s contemporary score for harpsichord, and the bristling energy gives way to a quieter, more introspective mood.
Characteristically, in all these works Davies uses particular physical ideas not only to delight in the extraordinary possibilities of human movement, but also to open routes into a more interior landscape of human feeling.