Saturday, 10 September 2011

Karlovac Dance Festival #2

1st September – Entry/ modulo4vortice/ Higikaria

The evening opened with Entry, a choreography by New Zealand-born Nadine MacLean and UK-based Hanna Tatham. Commencing without music, dancer Bianca Hopkins walked slowly along a central line of light. Eyes gazed downwards, she felt disconnected and troubled, as if seeking to find explanation for her existence in the silence. Then, accompanied by MacLean, the two dancers repeatedly curled and spiralled as the almost enchanting beat of Dominic Frasca's solo guitar began.

The performers' partnership was one of opposition, with Hopkins' earthiness contrasting MacLean's verticality. Alternating between intimidating, ignoring and encouraging each other, their shared dynamic was both interesting and powerful; more exploration of the complex relationship could have added to the piece. Entry was a charming and engaging creation which left me enticed and wanting more.

Spanish Avâtara Ayuso's self-performed modulo4vortice film used editing techniques to great effect to playfully contort the viewer's understanding of physical laws. With slow and fast motion and Ayuso appearing to defy gravity, the film was a fun experiment to challenge common sense.

Basque person Atxarte Lopez de Munain showed extracts from her 2008 work inspired by Jorge Oteiza's sculpture Par Móvil. In Higikaria (or 'Mobile behaviour'), two dancers, including Lz. de Munain, moved with suspension and resistance, counterbalancing each other as if inhabiting an imaginary sphere. Frequently reaching a point of near-falling, they appear to be testing the shape's capacity whilst alternately forming intimidating, angular positions. Alongside a mixed and sinister-feeling soundscape, with noises resembling water glugging, a snake hissing and the rumble of a distant thunderstorm, their every movement was restricted, suffering premature ending before completion. Later, with only barefooted steps on the dance floor proving rhythmical accompaniment, movements were able to unfold, broaden and conclude. The provocative implication was that the music was curbing the dancers' wingspans rather than the walls of their invisible globe.

Interspersed with film clips of the original performance, the live dancing lost momentum each time it stopped and restarted, although performers were, with their vigour, able to gradually rebuild the drama. The piece reached a powerful end as Lz. de Munain took refuge in floor-bound movements, making a final weighty surrender to the ground.

2nd September – Voće & Povrće/ Patriot/ 1716 (broj/the number) Solo for Vera

Four students from Karlovac's dance school, Studio 23, commenced the programme with Voće & Povrće, a choreography by Vere Mitrović. Wearing brightly coloured pants over white body suits and appearing to strut along a catwalk, they seemed to question body image expectations in a media-obsessed society. Rolling their heads and shaking their hips with a forced prowess, they mocked the need to be conform before donning skirts, exchanging their daring for modesty and simultaneously shifting their movement to a more free-flowing style.

Dancers were highly energetic; they repeatedly jumped high and landed in awkward balances during a pacey routine that left little room to relax. Changing formation frequently and demonstrating good unison showed these students to be skilled young performers.

James Finnemore's self-performed Patriot investigated the mundane elements of life. With a voiceover expressing 'This is how he expects everything to be', and plunges into darkness, Finnemore navigated the stage with his shoulders drooped forwards, as if resigned to a less than satisfactory fate. Through army-like crawling, childish skipping and moments of utter stillness, the choreography studied the monotonies of daily trials with increasing exhaustion and frustration. Its abrupt end as the solo dancer walked precipitously offstage while music continued to sound left a puzzled feeling as to the choreographer's conclusion on his subject matter.

From the UK, Finnemore moved with extraordinary fluidity; every part of his body was co-ordinated as one and his frequent falls to the floor were made with such lightweight smoothness as to render them beautifully discreet.

Festival organiser Melita Spahic's collaboration with dancer Vere Mitrović explored the performer's personality and her long-held association with the number 23. (Specifically, her dance studio – Studio 23 – was opened 23 years ago when she was aged 23.)

In simple white dungarees, Mitrović commenced centre-stage, sanding an upturned table whilst also directly addressing the audience in Croatian. She then roamed the stage, walking and jogging, in circular patterns, continuing her monologue. Her athletic physique was apparent as she sauntered about the floor from staunch held plank positions to cobra-like back extensions. Musician Goral Ilić provided intermittent lyrical guitar accompaniment, as well as occasionally vocally interjecting to question the dancer. The choreography developed as Mitrović surrounded the table with newspapers and began to paint it – a reference to the career she would have liked in furniture-making were she not a performer. Whilst the number 23 was repeatedly mentioned, its influence on the choreography was indefinite. As lights went down, Ilić asked one final question in Croatian, to which Mitrović's answer received scores of amused chuckles. It was 'what is your favourite number?' to which she replied simply '11'.

3rd September – Refrakcije/ 3-adic

Refrakcije (or Refraction) had no clear beginning; one minute sitting on a large red beanbag and whispering to each other, the next the two performers were walking in circles and the piece seemed to have begun. With understatement they sang about women in colourful dresses who drink tea, work all night and wear silk stockings among other things, while creating rhythm through body slaps and clicks. Bruno Isaković then began a lengthy monologue in Croatian, operating rather like an eccentric inventor promoting his latest creation while Ana-Maria Bogdanović attempted to distract him through disturbingly violent attacks from kicking to aggressively launching herself at him and twisting his arm.

Photo: Karlovac Dance Festival
 The metaphor for male-female relations was clear. She sought dominance and he resisted. It felt like we were caught up in an awkward marital confrontation normally kept behind closed doors. Later, the woman began her own whimsical mutterings, while the man endeavoured to gain attention; he danced and blew up numerous red balloons with irritating pushiness and then passed them to her to hold in between toes, under her neck and in other awkward places, thereby rendering her immobile. It felt like a task Supernanny Jo Frost would set on her television show to demonstrate the burden of wifely responsibilities.

Although the gender metaphor was overplayed, this bemusing piece was faithful to its title in the way it explored the refraction of human relationships. At the very least, it deserves praise for its highly original methods of expression.

Avâtara Ayuso's energetic trio took a more conventional approach to choreography. 3-adic investigated colour and shape with three females performing to the varying speeds of a forceful tick-tock beat. With athletic lifts, sharp head turns and dancer faces baring ferociously stern expressions, the piece felt confrontational and threatening.

Ayuso's choreography is exquisitely detailed and highly technically-challenging. Through high leg extensions, flexed feet and deep knee bends, she was able to explore a variety of contemporary forms but overall the piece felt a little stunted.

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