TiLT @ The Kazimier

Chris Fagan assesses the state of modern performance art in the intimate surrounds of The Kazimier… 

It’s a cold, damp Wednesday, but it’s also an evening of firsts; I’m finally going to break my duck on going to the Kazimier, and it will be my first experience of the TiLT Dance Platform, showcasing new dance at this venue since 2009. Somehow it’s gone under my radar, tonight will hopefully rectify that.

I appear to be early, as people busy themselves fixing the stage for tonight’s proceedings, I shuffle near the bar and wonder is this going to be indicative of the night as a whole. Slightly rough around the edges, and more informal then the normal ‘black box’ theatre experience; I hope so. Often that sense of informality can create an atmosphere of excitement.

More people arrive and take their seats, and somewhere between the loud thumping bass and the bodies still readying for the night, I take a seat on the edge of something akin to an octagonal bear pit. Idly scanning the rest of the room, my thoughts are broken, when from the balcony, a guitarist begins to play. She is joined by a figure who rolls and bounces along the edge of the balcony like a kind of gentle high-wire act.

Has the night commenced? People are still moving about, going to the bar and what not. This seems an understated start. It could possibly be a declaration of the nights’ performers intent to keep things loose and playful. Once the guitarist stops playing, a voice informs us that the night will start soon, you have time to go the bar. Quickly scanning the programme to discover who that was, it turns out it was musician Lucy Mercer and Hollie-Ann Coleman who collaborated on a piece, knowingly perhaps, called Dance For Your Supper.

After a brief introduction by way of the aims of the TiLT Dance Company, things are underway. A cellist (Laura Murphy) and two dancers (Sophie Edwards and Rebecca Ankers) are first in the bear pit. They begin and there’s something familiar in their movements, it’s likely I’ve seen this piece before. They execute their roles well, but for me this brief piece comes alive when the pair engage in a motion that could be described as squat thrusts. As if not ‘dancing’ enables their performance.

Maybe I’m over thinking it; tonight isn’t solely about completed works, and it’s not only the audience who are encountering these works for the first time, as it were. Either way, it’s always tough to go first and their bravery means the seal on the night is broken.

“What unfolds before us is a narrative about control, a ballet about the power struggles in relationships”

The stage is quickly re-dressed: a chair, table, lamp and record player are brought out. Into this outline of domesticity enter three dancers (Jo Ashbridge & Co). What unfolds before us is a narrative about control, a ballet about the power struggles in relationships, as the dancers ‘fight’ over who has authority over the table lamp. Early in the piece, there’s a technical hitch and the music stops dead, though the performers carry on without missing a beat. A voice from above halts proceedings, which is a shame almost, as some of these piece’s strongest moments come when there is little or no sound. When the breathing of the performers can be heard it provides a link with their movements, or as the case when one the dancer performs a ‘solo’, sat down, whilst jerking her legs  along to the crackling haunting sound emitting from the record player. It’s an intriguing piece, even eliciting a gasp from the audience as one dancer leaps off the table in the arms of another.

The act that follows, The Oblique Strategists, is completely different in tone. Coming onto stage to the sound of Ilo Veyou by Camille, literally acting out the lyrics of the song in a pleasingly absurd fashion. Their absurd movements adding to the fact they appear dressed as tramps make one conjure the word ‘Goddotian’. This might be a confusion of terms but their gyrating, bouncing, high kicking routine puts me in mind of Beckett’s most famous clowns. I ponder whether they’re just dancing until the music starts again. I also can’t help think that behind all that joviality, there is a serious understanding of dance. Or maybe as the title of this piece suggests It is What It Is?

We’ve reached the interval time; time for a drink and to take stock of the first half of the show, which so far is pretty strong. Following the short break is JMUpstart Dance Company who waste little time in showing what they are capable of, despite the first section of their brief piece lacking the pace demanded by the up-tempo beat, they display strength and confidence with their movements and group work.

Finally there is Collaboration which seems, for a want of a better word, the block-buster piece. It’s also the most difficult piece to write about. It starts with the dancers performing in silhouette which is intriguing, but the live musicians provide a distraction from this element. I wonder if this was a last minute addition, an attempt to utilise the unique space. Once the dancers emerge from their black and white world and take to the stage, well, my main recollection is how frantic it is. The dancers chase each other around the stage, through the audience and at one point backstage. There are elements within this performance which with some development would form the base of a really strong piece.

This sense of work in development is what a night like this is all about. It of course makes it hard to criticize; do I mention that some performers seem to have difficulty within the octagon stage space? In the end it doesn’t matter, I did see some strong performances. Of course the nature of the pieces on display left me feeling that there was a lack of cohesion, but again that feels like nit-picking.

On the whole it’s good to know that there is an attempt to produce an event like this on a ‘grass roots’ level which is always to be supported. I look forward to seeing what the second part of the TiLT Dance Platform has to offer.

Chris Fagan

Image courtesy Sebastien Brueckner

Posted on 17/04/2012 by thedoublenegative