Dance3 @ Linbury Studio, Royal Opera House, London

An initiative like Dance 3, the National Dance Networks annual tour to nurture and promote choreographers just starting out, should be valued as contemporary dance gains in popularity.

On tour around the country, each evening comprises three works out of a total programme of nine, together with Heather Eddingtons rather cute and dream-like dance-film installation, A Blank Canvas although its a shame that, during press night at the Linbury Studio Theatre, it was impossible to hear what was going on in the film.
Despite some issues on the night the post-show talk featuring Wayne McGregor and Anthony Gormley was cancelled, and there was some confusion over when the interval was the audiences mood was not dampened, and there were sufficient loud cheers and obvious enthusiasm to render the all-important London leg of the tour a success.

Opening the evening was Cabin Fever, an exhilarating 15-minute solo choreographed by Tom Dale and performed by Stephen Moynihan. You can really feel the sense of desperation and claustrophobia, even if it is not immediately clear what Moynihan is trying to break out from, or what the light offstage into which he stares represents.

Dales choreography is full of twitchy, nervous energy, with lots of upper body contortions. There are some war-like connotations: the khaki costume, the interrogation-style lighting. When Moynihans movements become much more grounded under this white light, he seemed confined to something (be it real or imaginary) almost painfully. In the latter section, as the music becomes more uptempo and urgent, with whispering vocals (a hint at schizophrenia?), it is as if he is led away by invisible forces, his body no longer his own. As the light dims at the end of the piece, Moynihan is still moving, trapped in an unsettling ongoing internal struggle, leaving us wanting to know what happens next.

Passing Strange and Wonderful appears to explore the dichotomy of pubic/private and the idea of opening up. The duet, between Keir Patrick and Lise Manavit, is sexually charged, accentuated by choreographer Ben Wights brave decision of using no sound accompaniment at all.

In another dichotomy, one of love/hate, comfort is never found: the couple moves in and out of a box of light centre stage, drag and pull each other in and out of the light sometimes passionate, sometimes tender; but other times aggressive, or nonchalant. Their movements are sharp, agitated, breathy. Does she want him, or does she not? Does he even care?

Eventually, they do come together, and the couple fleetingly embrace togetherness underneath the bright light, before disappearing into the peripheral darkness into the private sphere again, away from prying eyes, but this time as two. It was a little repetitive, but a succinct portrayal of relationships with some interesting ideas nonetheless.

Claire Cunningham and Jose Agudos 4M2 began with a theme of real life isolation stories, with sound bites of these stories punctuating the dance. A screen hangs on stage with scenic portraits that link to this theme of isolation and alienation.

Theres not enough truly multimedia dance works around, and this is a commendable effort in combining sound, visual and choreography. However, the sound and visual do not add anything to the choreography, nor does the choreography effectively convey what the former are illustrating (and thus the central theme), rendering the sound clips and snapshots a superficial addition. The collaboration could have been much richer.

But when it works, it works. Cunningham and Agudo are, without a doubt, superb dancers. Even when they are performing the same sequence, two completely different feelings are evident. There is a rather wonderful part where the two throw their arms out continuously at breakneck speed (as if the cousin of Sylvie Guillems Two); and with the dim shadowy light, it looked like CGI it looks magical, which is surely what its all about.

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