Temitose Ajose-Cutting’s Searching for the Dead is both tantalisingly close to and frustratingly far from something revelatory. A woman toys with her hair and twitches her toes while reciting names of relatives; it’s as if those people were fleetingly embodied in her gestures. That idea – the presence of absence – suffuses this work like a spirit. There are several lists of names – teenage crushes, people lost touch with, people no longer alive. Two musicians sing bedsit-melancholy songs that mix live and recorded (dead?) sound. The three women dancers often seem like somnambulists, hands stretching into an imaginary world, their actions haunted, their encounters only semi-conscious. It’s an atmospheric and very thoughtful piece, but the elements just don’t gel. It needs – it deserves – a good edit: a tightening of focus, a honing of means.
the tensile ripple of spines and scapulae is gripping
Botis Seva’s Rek is polished, well-rehearsed and sure of its stagecraft. It opens with chiaroscuro lights and dorsal dancing: we see only the backs of the five performers, and the tensile ripple of spines and scapulae is gripping. The performers morph into an ape-like tribe, sometimes gunning in squadrons, more often marauding in primordial groups who jostle and grope. The feel is a Morlockish mix of dystopian future with primitive past. It’s very well done, but it is also black dancers with bow-legged runs, handflaps and mouth-gapes – basically, playing the role of monkeys – without making that racialised imagery an issue. I couldn’t stomach it.
In Force, choreographers Catherine Ibbotson and Amy Lovelock get four female dancers into high-energy combat mode. Flashes of light intermittenly catch the women as they launch, lunge and plummet. The lights come up on rough-edged formation moves: more heaves, more hurtling. The action is scrappy, but packs a punch. The slow-motion leans and tugs – demanding more control than force – are less convincing, but it’s not long before the dancers are back to toppling headlong, vaulting each other for position and dive-bombing the ground. Not deep, but it gives you a kick.