Suse Tietjen’s Brother of Sleep is a dark little piece, shot through with images of suspension and falling. It opens with the eight dancers lying sideways, limbs wafting, as if caught in freefall. When standing, the dancers often seem to waver; later, they catch and hold each other in mid-air. The mood of restless limbo suits Tietjen’s theme of insomniac disturbance, and if the choreography sometimes veers close to drifting off altogether, it is kept anchored by Gareth Moorcraft’s score (played live), an unsettling texture of accordion sighs, twitchy rhythms and atonal wanderings.
Lucy Palmer’s Scratch Mark, for six women, is more dynamic but less effective. It begins promisingly, a menacing soundtrack rumbling behind dancers isolated within cages of light, hands scrabbling over their skin as if they were trapped inside their own bodies. The piece expands into chases and rebuffs, heightening the twin sense of confinement and escape – but all too soon the score settles into a four-square pulse and the dance congeals into generic dives, pitches and rolls, spliced with familiar gestures and composed into building-block phrases. Scratch Mark is certainly more than the sum of its parts, but its highlights are submerged beneath washes of classroom choreography.
an object lesson in how to create a riveting composition from a few moves
Palmer could learn from Ihsaan De Banya and Kenny Wing Tao Ho, whose Casting Shadows is an object lesson in how to create a riveting composition from a few moves. The opening, almost uncomfortably long moment of stillness forces our focus onto the single point of contact between the men: their hands. This small, charged connection sparks the dancers into roving phrases of deep backbends, long leans and razor flicks that strain but always maintain the relationship between them, whether in spiralling symmetries, in shifting patterns of reflection, delay and interference, or in simple steps placed perpendicularly, so that an upright walker seems to be following his own floorbound shadow. The result is a choreographic forcefield, composed not only of action but of space, and stillness.