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Probe in Have We Met Somewhere Before?

Posted on May 5, 2006

Posited as “Slick, unpredictable and sexy”, Probe uses three contrasting couples to explore different facets of human relationships. Dancers Antonia Grove and Theo Clinkard stretch the limits of energy and stamina to complete three pieces, spanning an hour long performance.

Rafael Bonachela’s Soledad takes us into the domestic space of a struggling couple. The dancers assume their costumes, and indeed the identities of their characters, before the audience’s eyes against a filmed backdrop of a prowling Matador, the tense nature of the film hinting at the passion and crises to come. The loveliest moment of the piece, for me, is the very first one: Grove gently, almost helplessly leans on Clinkard, then he tenderly brushes his neck against hers, suggesting an interdependence and intimacy which will surely become disrupted. The convincingly affectionate embraces and beautiful lighting (by Lee Curran) heighten the drama inherent in the interweaving, tension filled choreography, while the dancers move as one, lifting and manipulating, then fall apart, only to come back together again with an intense fervour.

The piece offers a demonstration of tension and inequality; while one dancer writhes and despairs, the other looks on, indifferent. Some of their partnering work looks physically gruelling if not somehow violent, and Bonachela’s angular, tumultuous choreography is extremely moving and demanding. In terms of intensity, the dancers are mismatched. Grove, with her mane of red hair, is striking, strong and passionate, while Clinkard looks slightly weak in comparison. His artistry, musicality and general believability is lagging in comparison to his partner’s, a drawback that was noticeable throughout the evening.

Cut Ups, by Lea Anderson was the puzzling middle piece. Donning crisp, shiny suits, the dancers become androgynous, introducing the piece through a series of silhouettes, culminating in a sequence of interactive shadow puppets of the dancers’ hands. In a section entitled “Pin up parade”, the dancers advance on a catwalk of light, rhythmically posing and pouting while their shadows dance on behind them. With wiggling hips and angular stances, this almost kitsch routine develops into a freer, interactive section, before becoming a surreal, exaggerated mix of overstated facial expressions and puppet-like manipulation. Nearly psychedelic in its oddness, the overriding theme of the evening, dysfunctional relationships, is hard to relate to the piece. Are the dancers intended to be super-cool, standoffish, celebrity type characters, or personifications of abstract notions? I came away undecided.

The final piece, Fever To Tell, choreographed by Mark Bruce and set to the adrenalin-filled music of rock group The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, shows a couple in the throes of passion, whirling and tumbling together, reflecting the urgency and sexiness of the music. Impressively energetic after 40 minutes of dancing, the dancers threw themselves with gusto into a piece which presents a destructive, unstable love. Bruce adds touches such as a duet while holding a cigarette and a lamenting, moving song from Grove; indeed her objection at being “dragged all over the place” is given a poignant physicality in light of the choreography.

Probe is exciting, thought provoking and intensely dynamic, with a propensity to pinpoint emotions with startling accuracy and room for artistic and choreographic development.

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