The sometimes disturbing and often bizarre MightyMatPogo kicks off the last night of Resolution! 2009. To a live soundtrack of vocalist Mat Pogo’s explosive, rhythmic babble, a boy and girl cling together. As the couple writhe inseparably on the floor, another – conspicuously naked – girl pops unexpectedly out of a box to join them. MightyMatPogo is full of such striking moments: exaggerated, cartoonish antics, deafening soundscapes, entanglements that border on physical assault and wordless screams; but these add up to little more than 40 minutes of headache-inducing weirdness. “No matter how far [the performers] push themselves,” writes Mureddu in the programme note, “there’s always the risk of not succeeding.” She’s not wrong.
Another New Day In Between the Lines also opens with an arresting image – of five dancers standing nonchalantly on their heads. Tony Adigun’s street-influenced choreography is fresh and lively, slick and well-rehearsed, and also pleasingly playful: assisted by clever lighting, the dancers engage in a game of hide-and-seek with the audience, poking limbs into shafts of light and vanishing from spotlit boxes. If there’s any complaint here it’s that Another New Day… is all too brief: just as it builds to a physical crescendo of leaning, pushing and catching in a downstage corner, the piece blinks to a halt with the audience audibly wanting more.
Nine talented dancers put the “fab” into “fabulous” in Drew McOnie’s supersweet closing number. McOnie has performed with Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures since 2005, and it shows – set to a suite of Judy Garland showtunes, Be Mine is gloriously, unashamedly MGM-camp, with a delicacy and musical sensitivity that make this effervescent confection impossible to resist. Moments of poignancy and humour give life to the technical workouts; men in their underpants shave to the rhythm while women high-kick and sashay across the floor; and Fred’n’Ginger seem to possess the whole cast. Rose-tinted and sparkling like pink champagne, it’s the perfect season finale.
Chiara Frigo appears to be obsessed with her own arms. Sitting in a meditative posture on a starkly-lit metal chair and flanked by a sheet of corrugated steel, she folds and unfolds her right arm with studied deliberation. To a soundtrack of rainfall and electronic noise, the choreographer invites us to watch her ritual of limb-gazing, the measured pressing and flicking becoming faster and more fluid as the piece progresses. There is something of Russell Maliphant in the gestural language and ever-increasing speed; the introspective TAKEYA however lacks Maliphant’s communicative fluency. Frigo offers a competent technical study in tempo and efficiency, but this never quite becomes a performance.
Introspection is not a charge that could be levelled at Douglas Thorpe’s frightening, threatening Beast. The assault on the senses begins before the house lights are down, a loud burst of Oasis’s Morning Glory pummelling the audience as we enter. What follows is shocking and brutal; the six exceptional dancers of RODA are not afraid to beat themselves up, hurl each other into the set or intimidate the front row of the audience in their study of the animal side of human nature. The men strut and stamp in a display of mingled sexuality and aggression, and violence is never far from the surface. Physical and visceral, Beast is a work that demands the audience sit up and take notice.
Lasting proved an uninspiring finale to the programme. The nine dancers of VOCAB DANCE brought energy and zest to Alesandra Seutin’s reflection on male-female relationships, but were let down by disappointingly predictable choreography. Romantic connections are signified by thuddingly obvious arm-tangling and hip-grinding, and an interminably extended mix of Nitin Sawhney’s familiar Homelands does the piece no favours. Moments of lively, afro-influenced duet and ensemble work arouse occasional interest; but the slavish relationship with Sawhney’s music and naive take on the subject matter mean that Lasting never fully takes flight.
A triptych of duets forms this evening’s entertainment, led by male duo Phil Sanger and Mandeep Raikhy in The Ghost Ship. The two Shobana Jeyasingh company members are both technically exquisite; the sensitive and human performance is not however limited to mere virtuosity. With snaking torsos, extreme extensions and frenzied itching gestures, the duo present the whole gamut of emotions experienced in an obsessive relationship. A lonely Sanger crouches before a projected image of an absent Raikhy; the two angrily push each other through agitated contact sequences; and at one point Sanger’s body appears to be physically indistinguishable from Raikhy’s as one sits atop the other. Towards the end the duet loses a little impetus, but there is very fine work here from both performers.
Continuing the Shobana Jeyasingh connection was company dancer Yamuna Devi, performing with Sarita Piotrowski in Nila Dyu. As the floorbound dancers open wing-like arms, an extended sequence of birds flying shows on the screen behind them; the animalistic movements increase in urgency as the two alternately support and struggle with one another. The atmosphere here is more obviously South Asian, fluid release and contact work combined with natyam steps and a mesmerising live performance from Miguel Marin on bamboo flute. Attractive but sometimes rather bland, Nila Dyu would benefit from tighter pacing and a greater dynamic range.
HitchhikeDance Collective bring us the final duet of the night, opening with red-lit Lola Maury and Myrto Gkouzelou in their underwear, striking a series of provocative poses against a pair of wooden railings. The image does not remain titillating for long – those railings soon suggest imprisonment, prostitution and child abuse. In a tender duet, the girls dress one another, then strut upstage in a carefully-observed simulation of streetwalking. The railings enclose the girls as they rock back and forth, violence, desperation and co-dependency mingling in an increasingly disturbing work. While not easy to watch, Gentlemen’s Venues is accomplished, courageous and raw.