The Factory | Dance Review

Nov 25 2010 Amelia Forsbrook, WalesOnline
Oh to have lived in a world where we only strove for beauty. A glorious globe where we never cared for criticism and avoided the advice of our elders, throwing it all away alongside yesterday’s lovers and the unwanted polaroids of last week’s most glamorous models and muses.

In The Factory, Earthfall have truly captured the mood of disposable excitement and recklessness within Andy Warhol’s NYC ‘Silver Factory’. Peering into this world sculpted out of free-love and amphetamines and wrapped in silver foil and paint, we witness a creative and dynamic way of living where reputations are built on artistic excess.

Yet this is also a world with its limitations. Rebellion against convention can only go so far before it becomes expected, and the dancing here certainly fails to sustain this inventive mood and instead merely reiterates a tired statement made many decades ago. So, as a dance spins around stage while discharging a fire extinguisher, what once promised to become innovative merely melts into a dull rebellion and a tiresome attitude to danger and constantly challenging creativity.

Another problem comes with the work’s representation of free-love. The erotic sinks into the mundane as dancers move in a fitful wave of lumped sexuality, strutting from one side to another in an oxymoronically coordinated freedom. True, this piece is sexy with its gorgeous dancers and suggestive choreography, but it’s also sexless as partners are easily swappable and even easier to forget. Failing to make the transition from conservative relationships to the ‘zipless’, the dancers find themselves bound in an awkward kind of middle-ground, where everything seems to be suggested but nothing much is felt.

The Factory is perhaps saved by its awareness of the fickle nature of beauty and the inevitable fact that shocking statements will always wear thin. Hence, perhaps tediousness is not a criticism we can make of Earthfall’s show, but rather a comment they are making about the era they depict. Chatting into a telephone, Beth Powlesland’s Edie Sedgwick observes that, ‘Everyone was acting so enchanted last year. So beautiful.’ Here, the company exhibits a subtle awareness that even the most revolutionary of cultural movements have their sell-by dates.

However, whatever statements they attempt to make, Earthfall are ultimately trapped within their own beauty. As the beautifully androgynous Rosalind Brooks lifts her shirt in order to echo the iconic picture of Warhol’s scars, her slight frame refuses to let biography and choreography collide. Indeed, this is largely the mood of the whole show. Lacking any sense of long-standing meaning, depth or narrative, this work is perhaps more suited to installation than production and, with its self-conscious repetition and elongated showiness, this is certainly an odd way to honour a man who made the condensed iconic.

To Dance and Skylark, Light Flooding Into Darkened Rooms, Overdrive | Dance Preview

Theatre Brycheiniog, Brecon

Thurs 11 Mar

There is an intrinsic element of contradiction integral to the genre of ‘Contemporary Dance’ in that its name alone confines it so that it can never stand for itself, but merely an adaptation of what it used to be.

Yet in the midst of this confusion, choreographer Richard Alston puts forward a convincing clarification. A man who stresses the importance of works of art standing for ‘something deeper’ than status symbols, Alston provides an entire speechless linguistic system through his work, allowing his dance to speak for itself.

Throughout, steps taken from jazz seamlessly merge into figures adapted from a ballet tradition. Naturally, it takes a remarkable dance troupe to pull this off and Alston’s company doesn’t fail in this engaging trilogy of pieces.

Overdrive, as its name suggests, is characterized by a sense of urgency yet there is an unquestionable height of coordination and grace evident in the movements. The poetically titled Light Flooding Into Darkened Rooms explores secrets, starting with a metaphor and expanding this idea through dance. Similarly, To Dance and Skylark takes an order used in ships and reinvents it as an encouragement to view dance as an invigorating concept.

Like with a number of contemporary dance productions, words are an inadequate means of expression so sit back and let the dances tell all.

(first published in Buzz)

Traces | Theatre Preview

Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff Bay

Mon 15-Wed 17 Mar

Was that last adaptation of Romeo and Juliet you went to see too soppy? Is it true that Les Misérables was just too musical for your tastes? Did you walk out of Waiting for Godot before the interval because you were too impatient to join Vladimir and Esragon? If you answered ‘Yes’ to any of those questions it is clear you are the kind of theatre-goer who literally needs your performers to jump through hoops to captivate you.

Fortunately, if this is the case, there is a production catered specifically for the likes of you. Traces is cirque with a difference, a breathtaking exploration of the limits of human movement and acrobatics balanced with entertaining anecdotes and a soundtrack that, for all its merits and diversity, could be taken straight out of Huw Stephens’ playlist.

The production, from Montreal-based company 7 Fingers, sees five characters take refuge in a building resembling a deserted factory, anticipating an unspecified disaster. The resulting mentality is something that epitomizes the carpe diem philosophy; here, the name Traces functions as a powerful reminder of our mortality and triggers a drive to leave an impression through whatever talent possible. Indeed, through their extreme energy and incorporation of skills as diverse as illustration, piano-playing, basketball and street dancing, 7 Fingers present the view that only through creation can we counter whatever malignant forces lurk outside.

It is the contrast between a fragile, existential recognition of mortality with an awe-inspiring display of super-human strength and ability that makes this circus act so superior to red painted smiles and a tame lion.