I am becoming more and more of a fan of dance triple bills, and choreographers Anna Watkins, Neus Gil Cortés and Salah El Brogy are in good company: Oxford has recently been visited by Richard Alston's Dance Company and Rambert both bringing this format. Why is it good? It allows for more experimentation for one thing, as well as highlighting the differences in choreographic style between the pieces. In Organic Entity the three works are linked, narcissistically, by their theme of humans - humans as animals, humans as spiritual beings, the human condition (based on scientific research) and the oddness of being animals with the ability for reflection and the need for transcendence.
In Watkins' piece 'Human Animal', a physical and vigorous Carmine De Amicis came into being, and zipped through evolution (or maybe his hindbrain) becoming different animals and learning new skills. To a beat of jungle drums he transformed into gorilla, robot, now standing upright and learning to balance, now repeating patterns of behaviour. His costume reminded me of a castaway and lent the suggestion that without a civilised backdrop we might reverse these trends and head back towards the primeval swamp.
'Left' by Neus Gil Cortés takes the premise that when we are alone we are trapped with our thoughts. And my god what thoughts these were. This was an unsettling, sadistic and dark piece danced by Lea Tirabasso as The Woman, and Rosie Terry Toogood as her Thoughts. We opened in a slightly anxious social situation but before long the woman was left at the mercy of her inner voice, and a soundtrack of insults and odd noises (one sounded like fat crackling in a pan).
Rosie Terry Toogood was astonishingly blank-faced, and dressed ambiguously in dark overalls. I couldn't immediately tell her gender, and she remained entirely calm which only increased the malevolence. She and Tirabasso tussled, but the thoughts kept the upper hand, tossing the woman around, lounging and watching her squirm, or moving her remotely like a puppetmaster. In one scene Toogood, standing behind Tirabasso, crept her fingers up Tirabasso's throat to close around her neck. I can still feel the hairs on the back of my neck standing up. And a cunning twist at the end left the whole audience alone, with nothing but their thoughts.
It is perhaps a little irrelevant, since it is extremely unlikely to be repeated, but the tension was ramped up still further by an impromptu additional performer, in the form of a spider who tramped across the stage area near the beginning of the piece, picked out by the footlight. It marched perfectly in time, and I couldn't quite decide if it was cunningly planted! Fortunately it departed again just as the dancers threw themselves onto that end of the stage. He added neatly to the discomfort.
The last work was danced by its choreographer Salah El Brogy. He had a totally compelling stage presence, from the first movement of just one finger. As one might expect his choreography was very personally tailored, and his hair and toes made star appearances. El Brogy is a big, strong man and his dancing is both powerful and quick. This work, 'The Moment' is concerned with spiritual awakening. I felt I didn't know enough of the background to follow it as a narrative, but it was also the most sensory dance of the three, with El Brogy pounding the floor first with elbows then the flat of his forearms in a way that made me want to copy him, just to see what it felt like.
All in all this was a stunning afternoon from top class choreographers and dancers. The person I'd most like to dance with in a disco was Carmine De Amicis as a Human Animal, because you couldn't guess what he'd be next. The person I'd most like to be was Salah El Brogy, living and feeling so intensely. But the dance that will continue to haunt me and make me squirm is definitely Neus Gil Corts with her dark dark Thoughts.