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Moya Michael

'Hatch', ‘Invoking the First’, ’Escotilla’, ‘Chamisela’

by Thea Nerissa Barnes

June 4, 2003 -- Purcell Room / London

I witnessed Moya Michael present her first full evening of work at the Purcell Room. Having seen the work of Akram Khan and Robert Hylton both exceptional artists each with his individual aesthetics, I was further entranced by the work of Moya Michael. There is a lot happening in British contemporary dance but these choreographers seem to be carving their own niche in the canon. One can note the compositional strategies of improvisation; relationships in space, fragmentation and augmentation resulting in intriguing movement dynamics and body design that side steps conventional contemporary dance movement vocabularies.

Also seen on this program was a solo, ‘Invoking the First’, choreographed by Gregory Vuyani Maqoma performed by Dada Masilo. The sound track for this work was a monologue spoken by Masilo discussing dance; to be inspired to embody it, craft it, and contemplate its effect on self, on those who watch it. Masilo standing in the performance space was powerful and her moves although contained illustrated her particular embodied knowledge of contemporary dance. Inverted attitudes accompanied sequencing of the spine and supple arms moving through out the space. Masilo is a strong performer with breath who treads the ground between presenting personality and being the object of a dance.

’Escotilla’ performed by three nine to ten-year-old girls and ‘Chamisela’ performed by three nine to ten year old boys was commissioned by Crying out Loud, London. ’Escotilla’ means Hatch in Spanish and ‘Chamisela’ means Hatch in Zulu. An abstract exploration on the surface to me was a metonym for insects and in particular, spiders. The children performed some complicated spacial and figural concepts with ease. Sweetness laced with purpose the spacing varied relationships and varied use of conventional improvisation exercises. There were solos for those more confident followed by each person leading the joints of another and fragmentation that moved in and out of the floor. Aideen Malone designed the lighting with sound by Steve Blake that also had the voice of Michael directing the children as they went through their dance. The children’s dance seemed a collection of their experiences with movement strung together like beads on a string. The performance skill for some of the young dancers was exceptional despite the few moments of breaking the fourth wall with a slight smile to familiar or perhaps family faces in the audience. Sophistication is the environment the children moved through and so what could have been a recital for children’s creative dance transformed into an occasion that revealed one choreographer’s aesthetic, her particular kind of art.

In 'Hatch', the inspiration f
or ’Escotilla’ and ‘Chamisela', Michael and her dancers Shanell Winlock and Maho Ihara take the children’s explorations to another place. The sound and lighting creates the same environment as that given for the children but a different dynamic is achieved. Spiders, the image at the beginning, for me presented an insect-like, eight legged object, peering out, feeling the surface of the floor, looking more like pincers than hands. Dance transcends and so this dance turned the dancer from human to something imaginable. Trick with the strobe light struck on and off continued the illusions that divorced personality and enlivened movement. This contemporary dance transcends modern expressionist dance, no longer lyrical, it sidesteps ballet and even transcends some of its own contemporaries. Resembling more the fragmentation of exquisite urban dance experts presenting eloquent body waves, body locks, and moon walks transformed into glides. In the depths of this work you glimpsed the structural strategies that laid the foundation for movement discovery. The relationship in space and the progressions from a small gesture of the hand that involved the arm then, renewed focus that brought twist of the head, break back, drop to floor, and then slide. This work, this choreographer, at present situated at the margin, is already part of a collection of aesthetics that is decentring the mainstream.

Edited by Stuart Sweeney

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