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.