Pedro Pires’ idea in Menu No. 5 – to illuminate the processes of factory farming – has one truly arresting moment: the seven dancers looking stiffly upwards, gaping mouths pierced by shafts of light. Any other fleeting images – a carcase being dragged, shocks administered – are swamped by the relentlessly busy, technical choreography. There is too much dancing for too little reason. The same goes for the smoke, the strobe, the musical lurches and crescendos. And for the projected images of Pires, first as an exquisite corpse in a forest, then as a naked nature boy on a beach, incongruously accompanied by David Bowie’s Heroes. Menu No. 5 is a dog’s dinner. It needs more focus, more purpose, and less of pretty much everything else.
In TDC’s Plan B, soloist Hanna Tatham begins on the floor in a pool of light, her long arms gently swizzling her around and up, moves upright through a second spotlight before returning to the ground in a third. The music shifts from buzzing electronica to Latin-tinged easy-listening, and Tatham, still largely led by her arms, amplifies her basic material with deep bends, elastic twists and a rangier dynamic. It’s more a compositional study than a piece as such – part craftwork, part choreographic doodling. It’s not, though, what you’d think of after being hit over the head – which is, bizarrely, how the piece is introduced by a recorded voiceover.
There’s another voice in A Short Term Memory is Like a One Night Stand, this time explaining how our neurones are triggered by patterns of sight and sense, and hence the audience is not only seeing the dance, but also somehow participating. Three women, in kooky wigs and dresses, do a little doll-like number; then they’re off into a line-up of kicky combinations, quirky sideshow routines, and swoopy formation dancing. A man with a mike explains that just as genes replicate, so do ‘memes’ – patterns and fashions that become recognisable and so reproducible. There are plenty of these in the piece, but pushing the idea a little further would have fired a few more of our neurones. In the event, the man leaves us with a question: how did it feel to have ‘been’ the dancers? A little kooky, actually.