The seasons. Fertility. Decay. Renewal. With themes like these, CAMP could easily be toe-curlingly corny, but newcomer Arthur Pita, with only one shaky double-bill under his belt, has created a surprisingly powerful piece of dance theatre – although it takes a while to hit its stride.
Set to fragments from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, CAMP begins with the dancers inflating yellow tents. They’re outdoors types, except Tiziana Fracchiolla, who wilfully wears stockings and chic shoes. Rachel Lopez de la Nieta wants to feel like a natural woman – and who better than shaggy nature-boy Robin Dingemans to put a little spring in her step? They all join hands for some bland May-time frolics.
But things hot up for summer. Jason Piper drools over Fracchiolla, who struts in pink hotpants; even her flip-flops have heels. Then, in a brilliant and unexpected turn, she wears a tent like a ballooning crinoline, intoning marriage vows as Piper unzips her flap and wriggles into her skirts.
an idle angel swaying to the song of a casual killer
It’s from this moment that the piece begins to fulfil its promise, becoming bolder, darker and more complex. The dancers jump a bonfire in a pagan solstice rite, stripping their clothes. Fracchiolla, reappearing in grey cardie and sensible shoes, blows about dead autumn leaves as if giving vent to frustration, sending Piper into tumbleweed skids and rolls. The dancers crouch and skitter like panicked rodents, as Vivaldi gives way to the sickly sound of laboured breathing. There’s black comedy as Dingemans plays Death like a reject from a German expressionist ballet; but the mood remains inexorably bleak. One tent becomes a bodybag. Another turns into an embryo sac – but reborn fledgling Dingemans is killed off almost inadvertently by Cody Choi. Choi closes with a hollow anthem of hope as Lopez rocks distractedly in a cage of light – an idle angel swaying to the song of a casual killer.
CAMP is rambling but it’s audacious, and its best moments are good enough to mark it as a considerable achievement.