We wait in the evening sun outside the stage door of the Brighton Dome for Part 1, an installation where the audience join twelve performers and several black screens onstage. Once in, golden light approximates the sunlight outside and sounds of birds, thundery rumbles and moving-gasping-dancing bodies combine with our shuffling indecision as we choose a cushion to sit on around the edges.
The programme tells me that this work, and this two part structure, grew from a specific brief to look at how larger scale dance work is presented in theatres. Bringing us into close proximity with each other, the performers, and the performance space is hardly a radical challenge to the traditional encounter between audience and work in a setting such as this. But I appreciate how it prioritises the subjectivity of perspective; how it is a 'gently political' (using Theo's words) gesture, to meet the work in this way.
So we meet it, and get to know these faces and bodies. The dancers are friendly, thoughtful presences. Some are sitting, some are moving – what we see of them is edited by others moving screens around the space. A sense of settling and preparation in their individual flashes of material; they appear to be working out or on something. Two dancers close to me rest against each other, frame or shield each other with hands and arms, a tender exploration with a feeling of history between these bodies. We are invited to see them and the seeing is intimate, detailed in texture. We observe and recognise a familiarity between them, and us.
We are seated in the auditorium, our traditional place of defined distance, for the second part. Here we meet the work having already met it; zooming out from the intimate to the cinematic. We know these bodies a little now, and seeing them enter one by one reminds us of it. A mass of individuals and idiosyncrasies, and yet a recognisable language is read through them. From moving in intermittent, language-like patterns they start to fling their limbs through space, jump, shake it off and settle, explore around and between each other – I'm reminded of the loose efficient clarity of Trisha Brown, though it's rougher round the edges somehow.
A connection between us and the work has been established, but the changes in scale and sound keep destabilising and reconfiguring our relationship with what is happening onstage: we know them/we don't know them, they're like us/they're not like us, they're pedestrian/they're virtuosic, there's a story/it's abstract – but these responses feel reductive, binary, when its clear the work isn't showing us something but sharing something.
Dimmer, softer light and sound and we zoom in again. Amongst rustling foil sheets a naked woman is testing herself out, the detail and possibility of her body and its moving. She is gradually joined by the others, naked and curious, drawing closer and finally singing together. What starts as a hum becomes song, and harmony - the light fades as it reaches a pitch and it is euphoric, to hear bodies and breath and togetherness. Later, the composer will speak about building the score around this song, and it resonates with my sense that Part 2 hangs on that moment too.
Finally, propelled by thunderous drumming they all dance together, in an occasionally ramshackle unison that feels like power and joy and unites us with them. It is a wide, climactic scene but still, the performers run forward to the edge of the stage and each defiantly stamps their presence. It is a sudden end, when it comes, and I feel a bit breathless.
In the post-show talk, Theo and the performers speak about what is brought to the work by individuals - performers and audience alike - and how that enables the work into being. I think about what I have brought to this poetic, generous, often exhilarating work. I think of the dexterity of choreographing for subjective experience and its liveness. I think I am thinking something profound about being human, but can't quite work out what that is.
Misa for DRAFF
This Bright Field by Theo Clinkard ran at the Brighton Dome as part of the Brighton Festival until 25th May. Image: Chris Nash
Posted: 28th May 2017