Siobhan Davies Dance
Queen Elizabeth Hall
4 – 6 October 2007
by John Percival
copyright 2007 by John Percival
For thirty-five years Siobhan Davies has been making choreography, since she was a young dancer with London Contemporary Dance Theatre — one of the best dancers their school produced, and the best choreographer too. She formed her first group in 1980, which joined the groups of Ian Spink and Richard Alston for a while to form the experimental company Second Stride. She was for a time associate choreographer with Rambert Dance Company, also working with English National Opera and the Royal Ballet. So she brought wide experience to her present company, and since 2002 has developed a new way of running it through extensive periods of research with the dancers for each show.
Her latest production uses eight dancers presented in “Two Quartets”. Each quartet lasts about 23 minutes and the intention is stated as being to contradict and complement each other. Besides Davies as director and choreographer they involve music by Matteo Fargion who works a lot for dance, design concept by Sam Collins, garments by fashion designer Jonathan Saunders, and lighting by Adrian Plaut; the dancers are credited with movement material and its development.
In the first half Laurent Cavanna and Sasha Roubicek are marginally the most prominent among a group with Theo Clinkard (a new company member) and originally Tammy Arjona but now Andrea Buckley. They are barefoot and wear clothes with individual patterns of black and white. Although they have solo moments they appear largely as a ensemble, their underlying movement patterns being based on walking and running but, Clinkard found in rehearsal, “pretty athletic”. The soundtrack here includes, overlying Farjion's minimal instrumental patterns, a lot of spoken words, not for the most part providing much relevance either to each other or to the dance action, but contributing to the accompaniment apparently by cueing in the music.
Before part two, four tall glass panels are arranged about the space, to be used variously as screens, windows or mirrors. In this half the dancers wear black shoes, and red and grey are added to the costume colours. Tall Henry Montes is the only man this time, with little Pari Naderi (whose clothes and short hair make her look not unlike a man), Deborah Saxon and Sarah Warsop as the others. This time they each have solo entries that, says Clinkard in his programme notes, generate “imaginative and personal dances that speak somehow of their idiosyncratic responses and histories”. Montes, for instance, makes movements like those of a surfer and a swimmer.
Clinkard admits to worrying that there would be no emotional resonance for the viewer in his half but Davies assured him that this would come from “simply watching four people charge about the space, accelerating, putting on the brakes, shifts of dynamic and the negotiations that constantly happen between us”. She was right, too, so that their quiet patternings provide a calm texture that makes the content of part two, although again very quiet and gentle, gripping in its contrast. This is a work that cries out to be seen again and I know I am not alone in hoping that the opportunity will come.
Photo: Dancer Tammy Arjona. Photo by Laurie Lewis.