Resolution! 2011, Kolesk Dance/Moxie Brawl/Sarah Rogers and Company, The Place

Resolution! – The Place’s annual showcase for emerging choreographers – is now in its 22nd year and showing no signs of age or exhaustion. This year’s programme includes a staggering 102 new dance works performed over 34 nights, and brings with it the usual variety of technique, theme and quality.

Wednesday’s programme opened with Julia Cheng’s reflection on the harrowing events of Morecambe Bay in 2004, when a group of Chinese cockle-pickers were swept out to sea. The Other Side starts out as readable enough: five dancers, clearly identified as the workers by their yellow waterproof jackets, paddle across a blue-lit stage. Picking and gathering gestures morph into larger crouching and circling actions evoking both field labour and fluid Tai Chi, suggesting the backstories of the immigrant workers.

This interesting physical parallel between different forms of labour is soon obscured, however, as the movement material gives way to over-familiar sequences of floor swings and suspensions with little visible connection to the theme. Loss, grief and tragedy are conspicuous by their absence here, replaced by overworn combinations serving the sole apparent aim of filling a 15 minute runtime. I was expecting to be left emotionally devastated by the theme; instead, I left the auditorium feeling only rather bored.

What a relief, then, to return to Sarah Blanc’s wholly absorbing How Odd The Girl’s Life Looks. Moxie Brawl have been quietly emerging on the London dance scene since moving from Edinburgh in 2007, with appearances at Cloud Dance Festival and Resolution! 2009. How Odd The Girl’s Life Looks is a mesmerising study of rhythm in language and in movement, drawing on American poet Emily Dickinson’s I Heard A Fly Buzz When I Died. The mood here is elegiac: in sombre light, a kneeling female dancer is surrounded (wreathed?) by flowers on the stage floor. A second dancer sits at a table, occasionally breaking out into rapid spasms of movement before regaining control. Behind the two, a video projection shows shadowy figures drifting hauntingly past a lit window.

Blanc’s work successfully draws on the textures of Dickinson’s language, juxtaposing the mundane and the tragic in a domestic setting also inspired by the poet’s works. Dancer Katie Lusby carefully gathers her papers into a neat pile, uttering the word “stoic” to nobody in particular, before convulsing into anguished paroxysms. Janina Smith, organising the flowers on the floor, joins in with clutches and contractions, before the two straighten themselves out to face the world again. Skilfully performed and gorgeously presented, How Odd The Girl’s Life Looks is a mature and accomplished work from this company.

Wrapping up Wednesday’s triad was Sarah Rogers and Company, last seen in action at the 2010 Laban BA graduation showcase. Bowline is the company’s new piece, and finds four female dancers each in a separate box of light twitching and jerking as if pulled by some unseen cord. As the piece progresses, the dancers begin to fit together like a jigsaw. One dancer’s jolts and lurches result from another’s yanks and pulls, and the movement phrases, at first separate,are reconstructed as ferocious contact duets. Towards the end, Bowline slips into repetition and loses a little energy and focus; but it’s a clear and cleverly structured piece, revealing ideas of influence and control through the physical principles of contact and reaction.

Nine days down, then, and 25 to go – which of this year’s participants will be the next Russell, Wayne or Hofesh, artists who all caught their first break at previous Resolution! events? Time will tell, but for the moment it’s great to see so much work happening and so much of it memorable.

Resolution! 2011 continues until 18 February

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News: Run off to the circus with Jackson’s Lane!

Jackson’s Lane Youth Circus returns this month to give young people aged a chance to try their hands and feet at a range of circus skills. Highgate People visited the group one Sunday to find out what it’s all about.

Jackson’s Lane Youth Circus is run by artists-in-residence So and So Circus, a touring acrobatic duo who also run regular workshops in Highgate and beyond. Around ten eager youngsters aged 10-16 years old attend every Saturday afternoon to learn juggling, diabolo, unicycle, stilt-walking, acrobalance, acrobatics, human pyramids, walking ball and hula hoop: “Everything ground-based, they learn here,” explains Kaveh Rahmana, one half of So and So.

“We’re not aiming to develop professional circus artists necessarily,” adds Kaveh. “It’s more about them coming and socialising and developing their confidence, but then hopefully alongside that they’ll get a set of circus skills that they can use, too.”

Twelve-year old Freya first tried circus skills at a summer course, and has been coming to Jackson’s Lane since September. “My favourite piece of equipment is the walking ball,” she says, showing off a nifty trick with a hula-hoop while balancing on the ball . “Everyone’s really nice and you get to meet new people. You learn all these new skills and it’s really fun to do – it’s completely different to normal.”

Aaron, 11, has also been coming since September. “I come here to do juggling, acrobalance, stiltwalking and Roller-Bowler [a piece of balancing equipment with a plank on a roller]”. Aaron’s two favourite pieces of equipment are the juggling clubs and the Roller-Bowler. “In the future, I’d like to become a part-time circus artist,” he says. “The teachers are very friendly – they show you skills. With practice it becomes kind of easy!”

As a touring company specialising in narrative circus, telling stories through acrobatics, So and So’s Kaveh is keen for the youth group to have opportunities to perform, too. “There’s obviously a theatre here, so what I’d really like is for them in the coming months to build up their skill base. I’d really like to programme them into our festival so we have Jackson’s Lane Youth Circus first showing in July, and to continue developing them so they have a really nice set of skills.”

New joiners aged 10-16 are welcome to the Youth Circus, which starts again this term on Sunday 16 January and runs weekly from 2 to 4pm (except half term). A ten-week course costs £120, and can be booked online at the Jackson’s Lane website or by telephone on 020 8341 4421. No previous experience is necessary.

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