- Dance on Film

Chrysalis, Piano di Rotta, Black Spring

by Katie Philips

September 22, 2003 -- The Robin Howard Theatre, London

Image of Black Spring


As part of the Random Dance residency at The Place, DanseDanseDanse provided an opportunity to see three award winning dance films. The first piece Chrysalis , choreographed and performed by Wayne McGregor and his Random dancers is a barrage of special effects, the result is a disturbing mêlée of futurism to a score of the same kind as horror films. McGregor plays the part of a half insect, half metal-head-plated human, slithering around in a bath, wired up to futuristic technological devices that seem to give us an insight into his thought processes. We are taken into the luminarium of his mind, where scantily clad figures dance amidst dirty plastic sheeting to a cacophony of sound – squeals, drum and base and electronic sound, interspersed with anatomical diagrams of the human brain.

We see an image of an eye, which transforms into a dancer as the pupil and a ring of candles as the outside of the iris seen from a bird’s eye view. Glistening semi naked bodies roll around in red sand surrounded by soft candlelight and shadows. They seem primitive and animalistic in their stance and movement, and the patterns they create in the sand seem like animal tracks in a desert.

Laila Diailo appears in seductive red and the insect man crouches and scuttles at her feet. They are like beings from two separate worlds. McGregor is then seen in a calmer white space and costume, throwing his lovely long limbs around to a kitsch Brazilian hum-able tune until he is engulfed by the whiteness.

Emio Greco’s Piano di Rotta seems to be an extended investigation in intricacy - the sound that a mouth makes in concentration; the way that hand muscles move; the breath when energy is exerted; the minute movements of the pelvis. Three poles in a barren dessert indicate the Stations of the Cross, and a solitary man in tattered clothes - something biblical. This is interspersed with dancers in a dusty studio, and the markings of their pathways. There is an outburst of movement with a deluge of fouettes that help to revive our consciousness, although it is unclear how this fits with the rest of the piece. Unless symbolism of Jesus in the desert muttering and gyrating is ‘your thing’, this piece is too long for its own good.

Heddy Maalem’s Black Spring completes the evening. It explores stereotyping and cultural identity in a stimulating, thought provoking way. We see snippets of booty wiggling, athletic running, and traditional movements, and we are asked, “Do you want to see more African Dance?” before being shown traditional dances from East and West Nigeria. We see parts of a War dance with straw bayonets in a studio with a gravel floor, and the dancers wearing combats. The next shot is of an African fish market, cut with a young girl doing a shuffle step in a shanty town juxtaposed with images and icons of the Western world seen in oil company logos and sports labels. Dance is portrayed as central to the African way of life – it is a voice on many levels: social and political.


Edited by Stuart Sweeney

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