CARDIFF DANCE FESTIVAL: WRONGHEADED/IN THIS MOMENT | STAGE REVIEW
CARDIFF DANCE FESTIVAL: WRONGHEADED / IN THIS MOMENT | STAGE REVIEW
Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff, Thur 9 Nov
The biannual Cardiff Dance Festival opened on the 8 November with a performance of Wrongheaded by the Liz Roche Company. It formed a double bill with Laïla Diallo’s solo piece In This Moment on the second evening of the festival at Chapter Arts Centre. Both pieces complemented each other beautifully, with Roche’s highly visceral and kinetic collaboration forming a powerful counterpoint to Diallo’s poignant and carefully observed meditation on time and the body.
Wrongheaded explores the impact of institutional, political and economic forces upon the female body, specifically in the context of Irish identity and history. Roche’s choreography combines with a highly evocative soundscape and poem by Elaine Feeney and film by Mary Wycherley to create a triptych of sound, image and movement. Starting with the ghostly overhead projection of video onto the floor, two female dancers begin a slow unfurling of their bodies, interacting with the images from the video which takes us into a cave, where the dancers dressed in lace dresses are frantically clawing at the stone face, struggling for breath and moving in a jerking, halting fashion as if being hit by volts of electricity.
The video and choreography begin to mirror each other as the dancers’ movement in the space is reflected by their appearance in the video. The fluid, dynamic choreography, skilfully performed by Sarah Cerneaux and Justine Cooper, utilises the whole of the space, sliding down walls and forcefully pushing against each other, the floor and the spaces between the dancers. As the piece progresses so the shape and meanings change; the video projection ceases and the work becomes this entwined response to the sound and voices articulating the experience of being a women in Ireland. I caught the occasional phrase from the voiceover, “the children must not be marked”, “gouge up the concrete”, “the women are here to count, to sit together and carve out arms”, adding to the haunting, disembodied effect. It’s reminiscent of a Samuel Beckett play, helped by Stephan Dodd’s lighting design from the front and side to create a strong chiaroscuro effect of shadows and light. Sometimes frantic, always intense and primeval (the retching, the dead weight of bodies lying on each other), Wrongheaded is a tremendous immersion into the experience of shared, bonded womanhood that offers a glimmer of hope and the possibility of genuine political and social change.
In contrast, Laïla Diallo’s pared down solo piece, devised with Jules Maxwell, sees a simple chair placed in the middle of the space. Diallo enters and sits in the chair whilst a voiceover about time – how we divide up our days, how time has had different meanings and interpretations – plays out. As she begins to tape out the floor, in sections resembling a sundial or clock, the sense of time unfolding in different stages becomes resonant, with Diallo emphasising that ‘we don’t move through time, time moves through us’. As Diallo begins to move around the space, firstly running around the marked-out tape, then using headphones to dance to music only she can hear whilst Mozart’s Requiem Lacrimosa fills the theatre auditorium, we become acutely aware of how time and memory is a construct of our history, values and culture. Diallo’s mesmeric performance is punctuated by moments of darkness, silence and an exquisite piano score by Maxwell.
Both dance pieces resonate with a sense of presence and immediacy, of being in the here and now and experiencing something sublime but also connected to history, the past and how we can rethink our relationship to the world.
words ALEX WREN
photo EWA FIGASZEWSKA