Harriet Wailling is engaged and unnerved by three new dance pieces from 2Faced Dance
2Faced Dance Company’s production of RUN at The Place examines the impact of fear in the creation of our worst selves. Highly expressive and excellently executed with a beautifully stripped back stage design, an all male cast delivers a triple bill of dance by female choreographers Tamsin Fitzgerald, Lenka Vagnerová and Rebecca Evans.
From Above, choreographed by Tamsin Fitzgerald, founder and artistic director of 2faced Dance, examines the frightening possibility that in the world of social media and intense societal pressure we are in danger of losing our originality and conscience. It delivers this message through powerful and eloquent movement: throughout the dancers spring off, mimic and fall away from each other. Fitzgerald’s direction ensures that this concept is conveyed consistently and was very successful – to the extent that at the end I felt distinctly unnerved.
The minimalist set design and contemporary music (arranged by Angus MacRae) compliment the choreography beautifully. The stage is bare apart from large box-like lights that hang above which the dancers use as props. Throughout the performance they pull down these lights using chains. Reflecting after the performance, From Above left me with the uneasy thought that not only are we at risk of losing our individuality, conversely we are alone, claustrophobic, in a small box of our own making.
What does fear do to our better selves? Other, choreographed by relative newcomer Rebecca Evans, dives into this question. It addresses the contemporary narrative that immigration is something to be feared. With some clever use of handheld stage lighting, a haunting original score by Bachar Mar-Khalife and reactive movement, two dancers demonstrate a destructive spiral.
The dancers engage and struggle with one another, reacting with fear and anger, alternating between the light and the dark. Ultimately, neither emerges as victorious and both seem locked in a cycle of fear. Although I would not have picked up that this piece was a reaction to contemporary events without the handy accompanying text, I take away the powerful underlying message that fear of the ‘Other’ is ultimately harmful.
The final piece, Fallen Angels by Lenka Vagnerová examines the fall of humankind and how we must choose our path through good and evil. Some of the dance is frighteningly powerful in its depiction of evil and succeeded in making my skin creep. A scene where the dancers struggle and break free from their clothing, accompanied by a crackling musical score, delivers in its intention to show the escape of evil. Think less of a beautiful butterfly escaping from its chrysalis, more human sized maggots escaping from their eggs to understand why I found this section bone-chilling. However, overall, I find the piece less punchy and well-aimed in its execution than From Above and The Other because the fight between good and evil (complete with the images of serpents and angels) and the fall of humankind is a theme well-examined, and as such worn with cliches.
Even though the execution of Fallen Angel is in turns beautiful, chilling and haunting, I find the inclusion of serpent prop, trumpet and at the end a dancer dressed with a pair of (beautifully made) brown fabric angel wings an unnecessary nod to a cliche and this jars with the otherwise minimalist delivery and brilliantly precise movement.
That the choreographers of RUN are women and the dancers men is worth noting; 2Faced Dance clearly agrees as the genders are mentioned in their promotional text. This arrangement is unusual in the dance world. The knowledge of the gender balance does bring an extra layer to the production; it makes me consider the roles and associated stereotypes of the positions of choreographer and dancer. In popular culture choreographers are strict, narcissistic men who view their mostly female dancers as emotional and unstable. The creative process between them is more like a puppet master and puppet rather than a meaningful partnership.
The stereotypes of popular culture are of course not literally correct but they are often based on some element of truth. Given this I really like that RUN is directed by women and furthermore that it seems to be a collaborative rather than an individualistic effort. Tamsin Fitzgerald, Lenka Vagnerová and Rebecca Evans are credited with concept and direction for their respective dances but choreography is credited jointly between them and the dancers.
This approach by 2Faced Dance is not a one-off for this production. This collaborative worldview is celebrated in the company philosophy. An essential part of the company ethos is to support and inspire. They aim to work with culturally diverse designers and audiences, and strive to engage with local communities by mentoring and supporting local artists.
RUN successfully conveys the challenges of fear in the modern world with some truly beautiful and impressive movement and choreography. I am completely immersed in this production and it stays with me afterwards. Although too unnerving to be simply enjoyable, if you are looking for something thought provoking I would recommend giving this production a go.
RUN is on tour around the UK until the 11 May, visiting The Point in Eastleigh, The Civic in Barnsley, Hafren in Newtown, Powys and Taliesin Arts Centre in Swansea.
Image 1 is of From Above by Tamsin Fitgerald and is by Luke Evans. It shows dancers Louis Parker-Evans and Jason Boyle. One man is standing, holding the other man by the arms. The second man is bent so far back he is parallel to the floor although his feet are still on the ground. His back is arched and his head is thrown back. There are chains either side of the figures and square shapes above them.
Image 2 is of Louis Parker-Evans in From Above. Photo by Matt Porteous. Parker-Evans looks as if he is mid-movement. His weight is on his right arm and left foot, with his right leg coming through in front. He wears dark trousers and vest and a white shirt. He is looking down at the floor. There is a large amount of dark space above him and a slanting white shape.