There’s a lot of krump about in theatre dance, and you can see why. It’s a high-impact and inherently dramatic style, its pumps and hits seeming to detonate inside the body while also being contained by it: a tinderbox of gagged emotions and tamped impulses. Joshua Nash’s Fig Leaf – for Nash, Jordan Douglas and Shangomola Edunjobi – uses this typically masculine style to explore masculinity itself, with much confrontational posturing over big bad basslines. Sometimes the armoury is loosened: two men lock arms in a moment of recognition, there’s some stiff, gentlemanish posing, and a lying-down krump sequence, as if they’d been literally knocked sideways. But even here, everything feels all about battle. It’s unremitting, and rather bludgeoning.
Neon Exodus opens with Jessica Walker and Marcus Alessandrini watching TV screens and making shapes while various voices explain their fandom with Japanese anime. They turn the TVs round and pop into a cartoonish duet of synchronised trots, hitches and zings as a montage of anime clips unrolls on screen. Later, they settle into a more contemplative mode, as if digging into their own feelings, or pondering time with their pendulum arms. Walker and Alessandrini have clearly thought about how to stage dance while screening anime; in practice, the surreal, garish and dramatic intensity of those small screen images pretty much overpowers everything else.
Contemporary dance is not often funny – but poking fun at it can be. Jessie Roberts-Smith and Luigi Nardone’s So Long, and Slender has sniggers and guffaws aplenty, setting lowbrow and commercial culture (drag, burlesque, jazz, MTV, panto) against the highbrow artistry of “contemporary choreography”. The figure of revered choreographer Jonathan Burrows serves as the fall guy: they set up a little shrine to him, and audience members get to read out random paragraphs from his seminal textbook, to much bewilderment and amusement. Roberts-Smith and Nardone are both rollickingly good dancers, and they have a good time with wigs, nudity, and interpretive dancing to music ranging from Béla Bartók to Bonnie Tyler. Whether you’re a dance insider or a layperson, it’s a hoot.