Posted on October 6, 2006
Wherever the Ascendance Rep dancers perform there is always an expectant atmosphere, indeed a collective hum of anticipation. The company delights and cheers. Its mission is to reach out and this it does, thoughtfully and entertainingly. The company has created its own audiences through performances in art galleries, museums, libraries, bookshops and even on railway station platforms. Curious people stopped, enquired as to what was happening and then they stayed around for the remainder of the performance. As a consequence the company’s theatre dates are attracting people new to theatre and new to contemporary dance in theatres. Their touring programmes are attractive to newcomers to dance and at the same time there is are intellectual and emotional depths to challenge the more experienced.
For the company’s “Chaps” tour there are two items first seen last year. Both have felt the benefit of studied revision and of being shaped for new dancers. Social Disease is the work of the young but artistically fast maturing choreographer Gary Clarke and The Up and Down People is a piece devised by Tom Roden with much input from the dancers. Then comes Jan De Schynkel’s dramatic The Habitual Welders.
Clarke’s quirky, dark and comic piece has the four dancers in Andy Warhol wigs, trade mark shades and pirate sweaters. They line cornflake packets in a neat row. They strut and pose and posture and pout and grip bananas between their teeth. They are self-obsessed and they are terribly self-conscious.
Enter the Up and Down People. Here the dancers are recumbent and are moving as if they are pedalling. They squat; they spring and then come down. Are they up or down or somewhere in between? Each dancer creates an enigmatic persona and the contradictions grow.
Words play their part. Anna Bjerre Larsen introduces her fellow dancers, telling us that one is “into techno” as if she is confiding an innermost secret. New recruit Paul Wilkinson recalls seeing old school friends on a railway platform and wondering why they were all “looking up”. Marie Hallager Andersen decides to seek relief by climbing up a tree. Feeling decidedly “up” she then puzzles over how to get down.
The Habitual Welders stirs thoughts about relationships and has space for personal interpretation. The dancers are dressed in workshop blues and they are joined on stage by the Ascendance Rep Education coordinator Charis Osborne. A plank of wood is flung down. Then it is sawn into sections and eventually it is hammered back together. There are tender duets emphasising fragile and mutually supportive relationships and there are powerful confrontations. The dancers emerge from them with balletic twists and turns. A medieval soundtrack keeps them in an obsessive trance. Barbara Schmid excels in this.
Ascendance Rep’s growing fan base will enjoy this triple bill. Its quality and the manner of its staging shows how well established this company now is.