Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Chasing the Past; Resolution 2019 London Contemporary

Photo courtesy of Kesha Raithatha
Last February , Resolution 2019 happened at the The Place in London. Resolution 2019 is a choreographic platform similar to  Manila's Neo- Filipino or  Koryolab  where emerging choreographers are given resources to develop a concept. The output was   presented  to an audience of three hundred people including critics from all over the world.  I had the opportunity to watch a few pieces  and interact with the choreographers on day one of the festival  and  a wave of jealousy flooded my body as I saw how incredibly diverse the repertoire was. Not that the Philippines cannot provide diversity because this is farthest from the truth. However the assemblage of repertoire was in itself quite inspiring. I saw three pieces grounded with different dance genres  ( cirque,traditional Korean dancing, traditional Indian dancing ) but all performed with a contemporary vocabulary. In alignment they were also performed with different ethnicity representation both in dance and the dancer. It is important to mention that the three pieces that were served all were aligned with one message, resolving (or discussing) something related to the individual.  I thought the effort to emphasize openness to different cultures, perspectives and sensitivities in such a solid unified manner was something inspiring. I would love to see risky shows like this in Manila where you serve not a niche market but several niche markets in one blow but with one loud resounding message to be shared. 


Since I'm writing about the past I figure it would be best to start with "Traces"  choreographed by Kesha Raithatha.  The piece started with a solitary light with the darkness creating an almost solid silhouette of a woman. With the music of silence, the dancer started  moving sinuously creating figures  with her body. She was standing solidly on the ground in one spot  but it was as if she was swimming, finding something hidden in the darkness. Her movement was heightened as  the silence transitioned to the sound of disrupted breathing as her rhythm. All of a sudden another light dropped  unto  the floor and she seamlessly  moved on dancing to the next spotlight. Another spotlight drops, then another until the she successfully danced from end to end of the stage width.She abruptly stopped  momentarily as if she had survived a strong current of  electricity. It was then that I realized her catatonic movement was not the dancer's character  but the flow of thought going on in her mind. Much like a person desperately trying to remember  a moment, she went manic. She was trying to catch all the details she could with the light that was never enough to show her what she was looking for.  As if the light had felt her exhaustion it dissipated leaving only one side light streaming while the fog seeped  into the stage like a cloud of smoke from a cigarette.When the fog finished it's delicate sweep, it was joined by another light framing the dancer.  In sync with the light and the smoke, the piece revealed a different state of mind. The dancer  slowed down and her movement became more intricate and internal. The solo became a mix of luxurious back bends with articulated fingers caressing the body or alternatively the  dress or the floor slowly and almost patiently. This time the audience was allowed to see the dancer's emotions  as she moved back and forth  within the horizontal light. Her pace was slow and purposeful. In this section of the piece she seemed as if she relived her memories allowing herself to remember the emotions of the past. It was like a fleshing out of emotions. In the next ten minutes or so the light shifted  creating different visuals and the dancer likewise portrayed a different sketch.  In my appreciation  it represented moments of struggles and triumphs of the mind.  This piece was not a narrative but more of a hologram of the mental journey. While the piece ended dramatically with the help of dancing lights, there is no real ending to the story. In essence it shows the complexity of the individual in figuring not just who you are as whole but who you are at this moment.It was a clear picture of every anxiety attack, every pillow drenched  night of sadness, every moment of loneliness and even the very academic intellectual confusion. The piece despite being abstract was moving and opens up the necessary conversation about mental health. It was created with much care for respecting the humanity behind what goes on in the mind and how it cross functions with the heart. As a photographer I would have loved the opportunity to capture this piece because my words are hardly enough to speak of it's aesthetic.Clearly her collaboration with lighting designer  Andy Hamer was a very meaningful one.  It had minimal elements but each mental sketch always had texture, depth and a recognizable emotion. While the pace could have been quicker, Traces is a beautiful capture of life. 

Picture courtesy of Kesha Raithatha

Levels choreographed by Emily Nicholl and Nathan Johnston was  a quirky piece. At the beginning of the piece there was an announcement that the totality of the piece could not be shown because the female dancer who is also one of the choreographers sustained an injury. Expectations were leveled from the get go. But after having seen the piece, the disclaimer and the pseudo apology was not necessary at all. The piece spoke volumes immediately within minutes of the performance. A man slowly entered the stage followed by a light  that created  a shadow that got bigger and bigger. He turned his back slowly and revealed that a petite woman was at his back that whole time. A big man beside a petite fragile looking woman, who was the bigger shadow? The visual trickery was wickedly cool as it established the stark contrast of the two. They traversed the stage in patterns creating shadows. They took turns until it was evident that the small woman could create just as big a shadow as the bulky man. A clever pas de deux developed. The man lifted the woman and swiftly placed her on his shoulders. His lift showed strength and dominance but soon enough this concept crashed and burnt as the woman  commanded their partnered movement from left to right. She shifted  the weight almost falling while the man adapted  to her every command.  Cirque technique was in full display as they did athletic stunts of lifts  transitioning into floor rolls that recovered  seamlessly. The partnership in movement progressed to a more body-contact driven series of choreography. Collaborative shifting of weight and interconnected movements of push and pull were visually exciting. The sequences were playful but collectively the point of the piece was directly conveyed. At the end of the day, there should be no distinctions of gender, race, levels because there is more to a person than the characteristics. Appearances mean nothing. Equality is real when you consider different viewpoints.  Borrowing words from the book the little prince, "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly;what is essential is invisible to the eye". While I'm sure there was more to be seen, the piece was more than worthwhile. It was light but real. 

Lifted from The Place

Lifted from the Place 

The night ended with Hsing- Ya Woo's in between. To be quite honest, this piece was a blur. While I respect the contrast of movement from the two dancers who seemed to portray east and west, I could not really see anything solid to be interested in. There were some highlights but mostly the fusion of the movement, the live music, the lights were so muffled I couldn't retain anything. If anything the piece showcased the dancer's athleticism and artistry. As a whole however i felt it needed an anchor. 

Resolution 2019 overall was refreshing. The investment of the the artists to dynamic thought  reminded of different possibilities. It's a thrilling experience.  Kudos to the The Place for being aggressive in their pursuit of art.