Darkin Ensemble: Disgo @ Laban, London

performed by
Alison Jaques, Rosalind Noctor, Sophia Preidel, Owen Ridley-Demonick and Riccardo Vitello

choreographed by
Fleur Darkin
Fleur Darkin’s Disgo began life as a video entry to the Place Prize in 2006, and has now been resurrected as a dance piece with added audience participation.

Four fluorescent barres and club-like lighting transform an empty stage into something between a club and a boxing ring. As the music starts, dancers in the audience start to ‘throw shapes’, which are by turns aggressive and lyrical.

In the programme notes, Darkin explains how this piece was inspired by the thousands of club goers across the country and the way in which they create their own choreography.
The piece is set to pumping music and lit by blinking disco lights. The audience is left to discover for themselves just who is a dancer and who isnt as hands, feet and foreheads are planted on slightly nervous members of the public, engaging them in various momentary pas de deux.

Making full use of the space around them and sometimes rolling on the floor, the dancers weave in and around the audience members; some make prolonged eye contact. Then the dancers strip down to futuristic slashed tunics and underpants and the audience are guided to walk along strips of fluorescent tape. Unexpectedly, some in the line reveal themselves to be part of the ensemble, jigging up and down on the spot in time to the music.

It is at this point that the choreography starts to feel more planned and purposeful. We are encouraged to press the backs of our hands together and join in by moving from side to side. The big disco finale is danced by all the members of the ensemble and felt very playful and joyful, a complete shift from the first half of the piece where the choreography felt too unstructured.

In the earlier parts of the piece the dancers’ fixed, unsmiling attitude brought to mind hip-hop- style “face-offs”. At one point plastic ropes were used to entwine the dancers, making them look as though they were struggling to escape. It wasnt clear to me whether Darkin was trying to convey the excitement and seduction of clubbing, or instead the underlying aggression and menace that can be part of a Saturday night out on the town.

As an ensemble piece, Disgo is a lot of fun, and the audience was certainly engaged throughout. The concept of audience participation applied to dance is an interesting idea for what is often seen as an elitist and uninclusive art form. The physicality and drama of the piece were certainly appealing, however, the rawness of the dancing, and slight schizophrenia of the choreography meant that the piece was not always clear in its intentions; it felt as if it would benefit from being tighter in execution.

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