Brighton Fringe 2017
Swallowsfeet are a collective of dancers from different countries who perform devised pieces of modern contemporary dance with original soundscapes and music. Collections is their latest, well, collection, a cutting edge mixture of different dance.
Collections is just that – a collection of different dance pieces from different dancers from the Swallowsfeet collective. A somewhat formal and disembodied voice came over the theatre’s PA system to tell us that the order of things had been slightly re-arranged with that slight uneasiness that comes from spoken voice introducing dance – how much should you explain? What is the role of voice in dance? There was a varying use of spoken voice throughout the programme.
The lyrical opening dance, La Boite a Jeux, developed a rolling whirl of intimacy and connection, with all little episodes of clingingness and unwillingness to let go nicely expressed in this relationship continuum – at least that’s how I read it – but it was playfulness came through the most – a life enhancing piece.
The next piece Still was a solo piece, with a industrial soundtrack of machinery clunking, banging and grinding, exploring the attempts to move and then stopping – it had a cramped but aesthetic feel to it, which worked.
The Natasha’s Project was a more didactic piece and did seem as if were a bit of a work in progress. The change from the dancers moving from a static line into a contorted finish, then the fairy tale flower story with much high pitched voice and laughter didn’t seem to go together, even with the theme of modern slavery and human tracking set out in the programme. The voices were a little too the same in a very high register, the storytelling rather simple and the allegory uncertain to me.
A Couple of People returned to a duet that moved simply from entanglement to a movement of a couple that accommodated without touching, a nice metaphor perhaps for the way in which a couple of people can be close but not in contact perhaps. It had the easy lyrical flow of the first duet.
And I should mention that in between the sets the dancers sometimes emerged in a live curtain, swishing across the stage to delineate the acts, – a nice conceit.
The final piece MAPS, starts very simply and easily, almost shambolically, a bass guitar accompanying its creation with plenty of reverb and occasional bursts of volume. A world map is created on the stage out of two buckets of salt, roughly scattered and dusted with fingers over the stage. The artist moves casually, without any hurry, occasionally talking to the audience in a conversational voice.
Then after the map, after the reading out of the cities and time zones, the protagonist leaps into a lithe, powerful movement as he begins to dance across his world. This movement from informal to formal, from ordinary walking and bending into dance feels powerful and satisfying. The dance continues now, the dancer’s feet roughly scraping and scuffing in the salt map, but his motion curved, strong and soft. The piece ends with his gradual spiral into a bow of homage –as he said he would, quite off-handedly at the beginning. There was something about this performance that came across to me very powerfully – certainly having the audience sitting on the stage made it more intimate and immediate, but I think it was the laconic casual start followed by the tightly sprung dance that pulled me in.
Overall it was a collection with high points – Swallowsfeet are always worth seeing and it’s good to see them in better venues now – the last time I saw them their original soundtracks were competing with a skating rink upstairs. It’s a shame perhaps that they could only do one night – I felt there was a certain amount of getting to grips with a new venue where they probably hadn’t had much rehearsal time that impacted on the smoothness of some of their transitions. But – do see them – inventive contemporary dance, always.