Friday, February 07, 2020

BRINK and THE HERE TRIO – negotiation 101 and a study of connected space (Maiden Voyage Dance and Liz Roche at The MAC)


Two dancers lie on top of a raised table. For a long time they remain linked as they explore the flat square they’re lying on. Exploring the edges, and then, extending over the edges, they hold onto each other. As Katie Richardson’s soundscape lifts from crashing boulders to more hopeful string pads, the figures begin to explore what is above them. They reach up and out, stand on each other to gain advantage. Yet soon they’re leaning in, wrestling and trying to slam each other down into submission as this power play reaches its final stages. By the end, they’re positioned pretty much as they started, but exhausted from the contest.

Vasiliki Stasinaki and Ryan O’Neill display strength and composure as they writhe and push and balance during the 25-minute performance. Their profound sense of space allows them to roll over but never fall off their elevated stage. Stephen Dodd’s lighting subtly shifts its intensity and focus from above and to the side – you never notice any of the transitions happening – at one point neatly dividing the table into quarters as the brilliant white-costumed dancers try and occupy the best areas in their fame of human Risk.

Eileen McClory’s choreography captures the frustration of negotiations that imperil everything yet need (most of) the players to remain on the table to seal a deal. It’s like an apocryphal vision of the UK and EU scrabbling over Brexit, with a sweaty Johnson and Barnier trying to get one up on each other yet unable to deliver a fatal blow in case they’d lose everything they’d previously gained. Whether wrapped up in the continuing search for Brexit concessions, reeling from the sudden return of the political parties to Stormony, or pondering the impeachment process in the US, BRINK is a totally up-to-date piece of physical performance commentary commissioned, produced and presented by Maiden Voyage Dance.


After the interval, Maiden Voyage Dace are back with Liz Roche Company in a coproduction that explores place and how we occupy space. Three dancers – O’Neill joined by Sarah Cerneaux and Gloria Ros Abellana – take it in turns, almost like improv performers rushing up to a mic, to throw themselves about a green runway of a lawn as percussion rains down from above.

The voiceover explains that “space is a vehicle to connect” and soon the dancers are competing, repeating, and rearranging. They rewrite and rewire structures, feel the pain of old scars indelibly marking land and bodies. The trio seem conscious of the shape of their shadow, particularly provocative when performed in Cathedral Quarter whose skyline is threatened with the shadow of commercial property development over the next few years. Staggering, fitting, falling, they feel the pressure of the space they co-occupy. Their bodies race ahead of their minds.

Midway through the 35-minute performance there’s a lovely original moment as a small portion of Bryan O’Connell’s projected drumming is highlighted with a square of wood, opening a window of detail into the music, bringing us from the outside to the inside of the piece.

How do we occupy and reoccupy space? Do our actions betray our lack of thinking, or reveal our inner thoughts? How are we affected by those around us, mirroring and rejecting and competing?

Maiden Voyage’s double bill of BRINK and THE HERE TRIO finishes its run at The MAC on Saturday 8 February at 8pm.

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