As a compositional approach, minimalism is a tricky balancing act: you have to cut out as much as you can, but make as much as you can with it. Success depends on the tautness of that choreographic high wire. Chiara Frigo’s piece has certainly cut out a lot. Lacking even a title, this is a two-hander by less than one person: a duet for her hands only. Frigo stays seated in darkness, only her bare arms illuminated. Over a slow-burn 15 minutes, the measured clasps and rubs of her hands build to rapid skitters, wipes and thrusts – until the light simply switches off. The mood is carried by the sound: staticky buzzes, street noises, electro beats. Is it taut? Yes, and not overstretched. Knowing when to stop, Frigo pulls off the minimalist feat with aplomb.
Douglas Thorpe’s Beast shows that more is not necessarily more. The opening duet sums up the theme, one woman fighting like a captive creature in the vice-like grip of her bloke. There are unison sections, with the whole cast of three gangsterish hulks and three gym-toned women launching and diving across the floor. In between there are violent duets, the women pinned and pulled by their men, slapped against walls, and chucked to the ground before coming back for more. The dancers are all top-notch and seriously fit. Though the choreography is bruisingly dynamic and full-on, dramatically it feels static, even hollow. There’s no development, and – despite brief moments of speech – no insight into the brutality.
VOCAB dance company present a more upbeat take on male-female relations. Lasting has the feeling of an end-of-year school show: an easy-on-the-eye piece that showcases its all its dancers without distinguishing any. To Nitin Sawhney’s easy-on-on-the ear score, the eight performers tumble and swoop through some well-crafted, feelgood choreography. The theme in the voiceover – about finding the one-in-a-million person to be with – is way too big for this lightweight work to carry.