Wednesday, 4 November 2009

The Land of Yes and The Land of No - Lowry Theatre, Salford

The Land of Yes and The Land of No
Choreography: Rafael Bonachela
Music: Ezio Bosso
Lighting: Guy Hoare

Reviewer: Laura Asbury

Rafael Bonachela’s latest work, ‘The Land of Yes and the Land of No’ arrived at the Lowry last night for one night only – and what an ephemeral pleasure it was. A pity their stay in Manchester was all too fleeting, as this transcendental new work was one not to be missed. Bonachella has spent much of the past year researching for the piece, examining the world of “signs and symbols that shape our everyday movement.” One-way, No Entry, Warning, Stop. He uses these signs as a stimulus for the production of pedestrian movement, the dancers embodying directional gestures to signify institutional reference points one mechanically conforms to in society. However tedious these functional devices are on the Contemporary dance circuit, Bonachela moves beyond the cliché, by employing a threatening undertone that weaves a gentle thread through the matrix of his choreography, whereby carefully constructed solos and duets explore the sympathies, frailties and spirit of human nature.

The most striking image is Amy Hollingsworth’s first entry; a body appears stage left, convulsing, gripping its chest, irregular spasms of delicate gesture giving way to sinuous phrases of dexterous fluidity. She seems perplexed, troubled, wary of her route; her hand clasps a heel as the leg violently kicks from its casing, as the head leads the tailbone on a reckless journey of breathtaking motion. One of the world’s most intelligent and thoughtful dancers, Hollingsworth glides the floor like a cheetah, taking dangerous gravitational risks, always moving with sheer intent and integrity.

A semiotic discovery through movement, the six dancers exhibit internal confusions and frustrations conveyed through ornamental, decorative gesticulation of the limbs, which is disrupted by weighted contact, laborious breaths and a passive docility of the body that leads to astounding violent and tentative manipulation of each other. Beautifully scored by Ezio Bosso, the music provided a string-based ostinato, its temporality filtering through the grains of the dance text: simple melodies seeping inside dark, intimate duets. Bosso makes attentive uses of silence within his rhythmical phrases, stillness in the score often punctuating the dancers to tangentially disperse away from the nucleus of unison phrases.

Bonachela invites the audience to, in his words, “feel something… it is up to you how you read it”. Whenever I hear these acts of artistic excuse, I can’t help but feel somewhat short-changed. Of course the very essence of Contemporary dance allows one to engage in art/dance/life outside-the-spoon-feeding-box, however this Post Modern rule must not replace the need for critical, choreographic profundity. Interestingly, Luke Jennings, a novelist from the Guardian, commented on a lack of profound subject matter in British choreography, stating that Bonachela needs a “road-to-Damascus moment” in order to find internal inspiration. A truly spectacular technician, Bonachela has a wonderful ability to craft the most intensely powerful physical richness, but whether his ideas are complex enough to penetrate beyond the superficial appreciation of technique, is highly debatable.

Performance was at The Lowry 3rd November 09 for more information on the tour click here
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