Now in its second year, Capture is an Arts Council initiative which commissions “screen-based dance works” – a remit that allows a multitude of approaches and outcomes. The first Capture was certainly a ragbag collection, but it included Matthew Hawkins’ exceptional Pas de Deux de Deux (dir. Paul Bush), in which two dancers had copied, move for move, some old footage of Russian dancers in a duet from Swan Lake. Frame by painstaking frame, the new film was intercut with the old, producing a wobbly double vision that was startling and wholly unexpected, both comic and strangely moving. Apart from Miranda Pennell’s award-winning Human Radio, the rest of the selection was unremarkable, and encompassed a below-par Doctor Who skit, a wholesome but dull excerpt of contact improvisation, and some woman-to-woman action involving jumps, juice and lipstick in which oranges actually are the only fruit.
woman-to-woman action in which oranges actually are the only fruit
Happily, without sacrificing the diversity of offerings on show, Capture2, shown in December, managed to achieve a considerably higher overall standard, with only one real dud in the selection: Terra Firma (it never does get off the ground), a mystifying work by Nic Sandiland and Simon Aeppli featuring a security guard who washes his armpits. At the opposite end of the spectrum from this arthouse tedium was the slick and knowing The Jaffa Man (dir. Oliver Ashton), in which choreographer/performer Robert Hylton streetdances like a deranged puppet through a string of his favourite genres. Following the Blaxploitation opening scene, the bewildered Hylton dangles and bodypops through a commercial photoshoot for a soft(core) drinks ad, an MTV set complete with gyrating ultra-babes, and a people-in-da-house scene, with flying visits to James Bond, Thriller and The Matrix. You even get the fire-twirling samurai demon thing. Somewhere amongst all that are more workaday scenes – threats by local gangs, a brush with a beautiful girl – but no worries, there’s not a trace of realism to taint this madcap caper. The Jaffa Man is all over the place, and it’s a great ride.
effectively simulates the workings of memory, the past overwritten and reinvented by the incessant circuitry of our minds
There are traces of reality in Memorabilia (dir. Debbie Tiso), but only as distant memories. Lauren Potter – one of the most outstanding dancers of the last two decades – flails and kicks, a restless, unquiet spirit filmed in sepia hues. The film is chopped, spliced and replayed in dissonant, fragmentary cuts, and framed within a computer screen, its pixels surrounded and overlaid by commands and prompts, pulsing buttons, status bars, scrolling text. “I remember…” says a child’s voice, her voice fuzzy with distortion. The 4-minute work effectively simulates the workings of memory, the past overwritten and reinvented by the incessant circuitry of our minds.
Memory was a theme, too, in Scratch (dir. Shelley Love), a spookily atmospheric puppet animation. A skeletal figure gradually stirs into life. She sits at a table set with plates and glasses, looks at an old newspaper. Surrounded by shadows and haunted by the sound of a scratchy record, she looks around the empty room, her joints creaking like an old rocking chair. There’s little else to this short film, but its intimations of foreboding, forgetting and mortality are eerily unsettling. Speed Ramp (dir. Lea Anderson and Simon Corder) is a black-and-white short that follows the agitated running steps of a woman through an urban wasteland of subways and underpasses. She picks up a bottle, lights the taper in its tip, carrying it aloft like an Olympic torch as she sprints towards camera, before hurling it into an unseen distance. We’re left with just the unreadable expression on her panting face. It’s effective – but simple.
a fierce competition between sound and performer, and neither party settles the score
Capture2 included a interactive CD-Rom and a video installation, but the most arresting piece was another film short, Anarchic Variations by Liz Aggiss and Billy Cowie, which gives your senses a high-impact workout that they won’t easily forget. Aggiss appears as an unruly alien in enormous boots and ragged tunic, her fiery red hair cinched into angry knots and her eyes smeared with black, like some weird, wired combination of Ziggy Stardust, a cyberpunk and a Starship Trooper. Cowie’s nerve-jangling score belts out jittery rhythms in clusters and crashes. Aggis matches it blow-for-blow: she slams her feet, headbangs the scorchingly white walls, scrapes her electric blue fingernails across their bleached surfaces. It’s like a fierce competition between sound and performer, and neither party settles the score.
Anarchic Variations packed a gut-felt punch that reminded me of what I miss in screen dance: the bones, the breath, the sweat – the body. Framed and screened, the body loses corporeality, becomes unmoored from the gravity and space so fundamental to live dance. This does of course also liberate its image from mundane mechanics, but how far can you go before it’s no longer useful to call the work dance in any way? As far as Speed Ramp, with its image of running? Or as far as Scratch, with no human body at all, just a puppet model? For curator Jennifer MacLachlan, these questions are exactly what make the field exciting. “Capture2 challenges traditional boundaries of what is considered dance and what is considered screen,” she explains. “The works cannot be collected together by style, culture or genre – they challenge who and what can be a dancer, and some of them make choreographers out of editors or camera directors.”
Such challenges certainly produce giddyingly unpredictable results; but in the end questions of boundaries and genres are happily relegated to the sidelines when the work is as entertaining as The Jaffa Man or as striking as Anarchic Variations.