The BT is an intimate venue to say the least, and to find oneself crammed into its tiny foyer and stairs- brimming with anticipation and fifty other audience members - at the first outing of these new dance gems is to feel lucky indeed.
The Solos Project has been curated excellently by Susie Crow of Ballet In Small Spaces. The order of performances enhances the overall experience, each surpassing the one before in its level of provocation, while the final traditional Hindu dance entices the average viewer with unfamiliar form. Lights dim to introduce each piece, engaging the audience members from their seats, immediately setting a personal, thoughtful tone instead of requesting hush or announcing titles from the programme.
Hannah de Cancho's Routed opens the stage. Individual elements sparkle: certain evocative poses and music culled from Yuri Lane, Celtic Woman and Aphex Twin. Unfortunately, the elements combined fail to converge meaningfully, and what one receives is a glossy mini-jumpsuit, the stridency of a recording and thumping, and an existential metaphor.
Next, Fiona Millward charms us with her humorous monologue and nuanced, miniature movements. Hoop captivates from its first line: “So I said to him, 'What do you mean, an immature fantasist?'" Sexual innuendo endears us to both choreography and script, and at times one wonders if Millward addresses her audience or a dissatisfied partner, particularly when she inquires as to whether you are happy and wishes you would feel welcome.
Thirdly, dancer Debby Camp brings camp glory to Susie Crow's choreography in Boom and Bust. Camp's prowess over her feathered costume and the burlesque tune alone achieves a claustrophobic effect which other performers struggle to garner from the small space. This modernist construction closes with the performer's tidying the stage after her show, a moment of disillusionment occurring punctually before intermission.
Solos reveal something stark about humanity if done well. Fortunately, Ruth Pethybridge and Thomas JM Wilson offer the right stuff in the subsequent two numbers. Love After Love begins with dramatic mugshots of Pethybridge against the back wall. Then the earnestness of graceful motion and honest music is suffused with vibrancy from her coloured cotton dress and Walcott's uplifting poetry. The act quickens into a celebratory feast, like a dance interpretation of Amélie. However, irony steals into the culminating catharsis of “dancing with myself" – for all the lights turn on to reveal her adamantly dancing with us.
The minimalist piece Blotter begins with a long narrow stick, glided in spotlight by Wilson. But one scarcely recognises a man, who dons a full-body, figure-deforming suit in multicoloured stripes. The costume evokes a straitjacket – but you might fear yourself the patient, for Wilson makes you complicit: it is you who sees such hallucinatory colours on a head-covered creature. The atmospheric effect potently silences one inside. Lighting directs the audience – a horizontal light shifts up and down upon Wilson as though the rings of light around his body manacle his limbs. He oozes across stage to dreamlike piano.
Lastly, Anuradha Chaturvedi stamps and spins in rhythmic cycles in Tarana. She seems to vibrate with energy, and she conquers the constriction of space by vanquishing our awareness of setting. She displays technique and expression. It is a pleasure to juxtapose this raga with the other, contemporary styles: one finds commonality in the overt, smiling entertainment of the last piece and the sly self-conscious relationship of performer to viewer in the earlier ones.
One is sure to leave the theatre with private reflection after an evening of fun, dignified art.