Having now seen my one and only contemporary dance performance in Dublin, I feel like I should say something about it. The performance, consisting of three works, was called Fast Portraits, presented by Rex Levitates Dance Company and choreographed by Artistic Director Liz Roche.
The first piece was “These Two People” for eight dancers—two trios, one all-male in black, the other all-female in white, and a male-female duo in grey—the eight forming a sort of B&W picture together. At times, both the male and female trios acted almost as single entities so that their interactions with one another gave the impression that we were, in fact, watching just two couples oddly mirroring one another. While there were some Contact Improv techniques used in the choreography, very little involved large-scale manipulation of bodies through space. Instead, a lot of staccato impulses briefly propelled limbs into motion and hindered or shifted the core direction of the dancers’ movement, all while maintaining a level of flow and integrity in the group. The dancers also played a lot in the negative spaces and in each other’s kinespheres. We saw a lot of impulses transmitted without actual contact.
The second piece was “Solo Portrait” with director of photography Kate McCullough, whose beautifully shot short film of Roche moving whilst seated on a clear plastic chair formed the backdrop to the live dancer, who sat onstage with her back to the audience, faithfully mirroring the movements we watched onscreen. I like the use of props in dance and, for some reason, furniture in particular, but Roche’s use of the chair was not especially interesting to me. For example, there was no exploration of the various movement possibilities afforded by the chair. Rather, in typical postmodern style, Roche’s slow and deliberate gestures were more a meditation on the pedestrian. This fits with the description of the piece, “somewhere between performance and reality.” Call me old-fashioned, but as a member of an audience, I’m more interested in a dancer’s performance than her reality.
The last piece, “Fast Portraits,” picked up on the chair motif from Roche’s solo. Six dancers repeatedly displaced one another from a chair and shifted in and out of fast-moving, ever-changing trios. A lot of the techniques we saw in the first piece were utilized in the second piece, so although structurally different from one another, the two pieces felt too similar to one another. The dancers also spoke occasionally in this last piece, repeating mundane things like “Okay,” but I wasn’t sure what the point of that was. It also felt lacking in direction to me.
I had hoped for something “different and interesting” and, although I did enjoy the dancing, I would not have chosen either of these terms to describe the performance. I am happy there are dancers making work like this in Dublin, and that audiences there have a chance to see contemporary dance, but for a seasoned and vaguely jaded spectator such as myself, there was not much I felt like I hadn’t seen before.