A group called Who_loves2dance.company may sound like fun, but Brothers of Death is no fun at all. Four figures in black suits and bowler hats march about funereally, occasionally breaking into song (lugubrious dirges all). These Brothers of Death stalk three dancers in red, who are, one supposes, the Living. A woman sways and hums before chasing some imaginary object around the stage. What does she seek? Two figures race towards each other, but miss. All three roll and slide across the floor, reaching upwards but drawn sighingly back to earth. There is an almighty thunderclap. There is a fatal tango. There are a lot of meaningful looks. Many dances can effectively touch the big themes (life, love, death) by focusing on the small or the particular; Brothers of Death goes straight for the biggies and ends up casting aimlessly about the stage.
one rictus arm jerking an accusing finger towards his armpit
Jiva’s Waiting is a trilogy of solos, each opening with the same motif: a coy foot-shuffle, a busty shoulder shrug, some hand-wringing. The opening scene sees him as a manic clubber, nervy sparks firing his slender body as lines of white light rake the backcloth like a scanning beam. In the second part, he sinks to the floor and performs a kind of bharata natyam mime. The classical root depicts a woman beautifying herself at a mirror; Jiva’s amusingly weird version sees him twisting away from the mirror and fretting at his hair, one rictus arm jerking an accusing finger towards his armpit. As television fuzz washes the back wall, he moves slowly downstage, where he caresses his neck, and cups his belly. A lot. Repetition – sometimes to the point of ennui – is in fact a theme for the whole piece. The final section, in which Jiva cavorts with a bunch of flowers, ends with a very long cycle of falls and rolls during which he lobs the flowers into the air. Lisa Skuret’s simple but effective video projection provides an aptly alienating technological backdrop for Jiva’s erratic movement spasms. Jiva is a loose cannon – sometimes comic, always edgy – but his nervous energy is not centred enough to command attention during the overlong sequences of repetition.
London Diaspora Dance Theatre’s Four Women is driven by its music, beginning with Nina Simone’s eponymous song, ending with a funky rap version of the same song, and moving through a laid-back jazzy number. Choreographer Paradigmz brews a populist mix of African, jazz and contemporary dance for his four black women dancers, hymning African roots while telling a contemporary story of struggle and survival. That may sound heavy, but this is an engaging, spirited ride. The choreography, cued by the lyrics, deftly wraps itself around the curves and dips in the musical rhythm, and often foregrounds a solo dancer against a backing trio, just like a soul group. London Diaspora Dance Theatre may not have a fun name, but Four Women is an enjoyable piece; and purposeful too. With a little more money to jazz up the production values, it could go far.