Tuesday, July 02, 2002

I finally saw a show that gave me something to chew on -- conceptually. Wendy Houstoun & Guests, The Purcell Room, 13 June 2002. Good lookings for intersubjective juicy bits and relevance into my ideas about choreography (as I struggle to materialise them).

On 13 June I entered the Purcell Room, a formal theatre setting with large video images filling the whole back wall of the stage. Once settled into my seat, front row and centre, I noticed an illuminated red plug glowing in front of me reading “keine angst”. The show begins. Wendy stands offstage left, down level with the audience and speaks to us casually. Wearing faded black t-shirt & jeans it appears to me that she is just “being herself”. In further efforts to convey this Wendy tells us what we are about to see is an experiment, just some ideas she and her guests have been working on, then humorously, she says “I would like to call your attention to this plug” (i.e. the “keine angst” plug I am sitting in front of). What??

I was struck by the opposition of her down-to-earth, somewhat bizarre, relaxed approach of her words and appearance vs. the setting in which I find myself. The Purcell Room for me has always been a venue for serious dance companies, reserved for the big boys (and girls even). Wendy’s lax introduction made me feel as if I were in the wrong place and I started to question the £25.00 I had just laid down for my two tickets.

But once the performance began I was excited by the concept, the attention of the dancers, the sound and video capturing the live moments of structured improvisation. It was fantastic and I was happy to watch what unfolded from layered tasks of fluid components. The layered tasks of the evening expanded from six dancers creating their own individual dances spontaneously and in the moment as they took their movement cues from each other and from two videos playing on either side of the stage. Engaging!

The second layer upon this was repeated movement making in this way by two dancers whilst one man wrote spontaneous thoughts on an overhead projector, one man read these aloud, and one man sat sketching the live movement.

After this followed one dancer, a woman wearing a pair of headphones listening to text or a talk show of some kind and trying to say exactly what she heard as she heard it. Quite entertaining as she could never quite keep up with the speed of whatever it was she was listening to.

Towards the end of the show we saw three duets. One of each of the dancers in each duet was blindfolded. They moved only when they felt their partner move and tried to match them energetically.

Finally, in the last section of the “experiment” pre-meditated members of the audience were brought up on stage and seated in a row of chairs just within the sightlines of the television sets tuned into an episode of East Enders. Their job was to replicate movements and body postures as seen on the screens. While this was happening each of the six dancers wore a pair of headphones also tuned into the show and the men & women spoke in turn in accordance with the characters. A final touch which I liked was scrolling across the back wall there were projections saying “To vote Nigel off call 07876 281 081”, “To vote Jane off call 07791 267 542” etc.

What turned out to be a sceptical evening for me at first turned into my favourite contemporary dance event of the year. It was innovative and well explored and definitely worth my 25 quid!


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