A group hug never feels far off in Impermanence Dance Theatre’s Blanched Stories. Like an extended family in a commune, the cast of dancers, musicians and one actor hang out together, sometimes getting up to do their thing: dance (go-with-the-flow stuff, nothing harsh), play, act. We’re told that the piece is about new motherhood, but that’s hard to see. Rather, the baby being brought up here is the performance itself. So, alongside a Shakespeare sonnet, a swoopy solo and a song for a dead grandmother, we hear about ideas and disagreements and compromises. Apparently, it did all start with workshops about new mothers, which just goes to show that creative concepts, like babies, turn out different from how you expect.
If Blanched Stories has an open-hearted, raggle-taggle charm, Exzeb’s Artism is tense, dense and darkly ironic. Three dancers limber up as one (David Gellura) appears on screen, the bleached monochrome film imparting a cadaverous cast to his deadpan talk about dancers’ routines, adrenalin hits, post-performance depression. Above all, about choreographers, who, he contends, are neither good enough dancers to appear on stage nor bad enough to be kept off it, and who feed off dancers’ artistry to resell as their own. This bitter observation is followed by a sharp, technically complex trio on stage, brilliantly executed – and tautly choreographed. The dancers are Gellura, Merel Corne and Sophia Preidel; choreography is by “Exzeb”.
In Simonetta Alessandri’s weird, sporadically wonderful Dog Roses, three women get in touch with their inner dog, yapping and yowling as they tussle and scarper about. Thankfully, you don’t see portrayals of dogs; you see animal energies in action. Far more than Artism, Dog Roses relies on its performers to carry it off, as you realise whenever the outstanding Stephanie McMann appears. Not that Giuliana Majo and Flora Wellesley Wesley are bad, but McMann turns performance clichés – about presence, inhabiting the role, being in the moment and so on – into truisms. She owns this piece.