Experimental choreography inspired by cinema and avant-garde theatre
Choreographer Shian Law, who won the 2011 Fringe award for best dance, returns with designer Matthew Adey and video artist James Wright in another super impressive production.
The ambition on this one is incredible. Not at all daunted by the enormous Meat Market hall, Law makes intriguing and original use of the space using multiple performance areas. The audience is initially divided into two groups. One watches what looks like a solo performance in a cramped, curtained-off alcove, while the other watches what again looks like a solo performance on the main stage, though viewing it from backstage, as it were, facing the empty seats. At first, the two groups are only connected by a live video feed projected between each; but soon dancers too begin to move between the spaces, bodies flowing from the intimacy of the cave to the vastness of the stage. The two audience groups then change places, before coming together at the front of the main stage.
The performers, Law, James Andrews, Melissa Jones and Emily Ranford, are gorgeously presented. Michelle Boyde's costumes are glamorous, but not an armoured glamour. Like the vulnerable quarter-moons peeping from below their too-short, boy-cut leotards, there's a sense of exposure about the dancers, a barely concealed desire to be exploited. The way their hair and make-up, which is similarly elegant, becomes progressively, though never completely, undone and dishevelled through the first two movements is especially poignant. The exception to this is Law himself, who, with his florescent pink hair in its angular cut, already stands out from the other three performers. His relative lack of vulnerability, as well as the sense that he is directing from the floor, gives his presence among them an eerily exploitive quality.
At its best, Law's work has a graceful, back-and-forth fluidity about it, where the heaped arrangements of sprawled bodies seem to wash to and fro, as though poured from one to the other. It isn't always at its best, as there seem to be a lot of small awkwardnesses as the dancers reposition themselves between phrases, perhaps suggesting a tendency to over-choreograph. On the other hand, there is a strange dirtiness beneath the smoky glamour – the invasive video camera, the curtain jerkily drawn across by hand, the grey carpet, the cobbled stones, the faint suggestion of exploitation – with which the occasional shuffling readjustment seems to agree.
Body Obscure Object has the feel – to me – of significant promise. Being able to work so comfortably across media and across such a cavernous space, which has bested many companies and choreographers with better resources and more experience than Law and his team, and to maintain a consistent and affecting mood is especially heartening. Definitely a choreographer to watch out for.