Edinburgh Fringe 2011
Hold, choreographed by Lisa Spackman claims ‘if Florence & The Machine were a dance company they would make work like this’. With the intention of creating a work using the ‘19th century philosophy that sees the romantic as being somewhere between the real and the imagined’ they have ended up with a work that whilst crazy and schizophrenic does contain some amazing and exciting dancing.
With two little feet sticking out from behind the cyclorama, soles facing audience, and the sound of birds flapping you could mistake it for a scene from the Wizard of Oz. In hurtle two blondes, their hands communicating and conversing with the dexterity of a deaf signer. Heads joined together the two dancers, Hannah Birch and Laura Gibson move like the Kraken. Moving away from one another Gibson feels a stream of light, tasting it with her limbs before immersing her body. Placing the boots she finds on her feet she is compelled to dance, stamping out percussive beats, the costume a definite influence. Birch enters wearing a jacket with a light-up interior, she shows off the illuminated lining with movements akin to Oliver Twist’s Fagin displaying his wares. Another costume change brings the women out in layered skirts, compelling them to spin like whirling dervishes. Next, a change in lighting and the stage becomes a sea of red heat that the duo squirms and skitters across, being quite vocal about their displeasure at the intensity of the heat.
In between the character sections of work, influenced by costume, lighting and vocals comes the frenetic and ferocious energy of the two dancers as they hurtle and fling themselves about the stage. Gibson and Birch are talented performers with a fantastic ability, the intricacy and accuracy of their movement keeps your eyes on their bodies at all times. The duo frequently become one entity as the fearless entwining and abandon of the couple sees them work together to explore their new situations. Like a locomotive the couple continuously build momentum, unable to ease the speed they go for it, letting go, flying through the air, turning and spinning on their own axis before finally slowing for their next stop, ready for the course to be changed by another external influence.
The character sections are often overly literal and the vocal wittering’s of the duo a little annoying, most apparent in the last section of the piece. Gibson enters the stage with a metal Tournure about her hips; Birch dresses her in skirts evoking images of 19th century gentry before back combing her hair into a birds nest. Items pulled from the messy barnet include a bird, an egg, and foil wrapped sweets which are thrown into the audience in pantomime style fashion.
The ending of the show falls a little flat after the high octane activity that preceded it. Though the dancing is feisty and brilliant the character sections are under realised. It feels as though the initial findings from research and development were used instead of furthering the exploration. It could be easily done as I’m sure most movement looks good on these intelligent performers but the result is a work which is incoherent. Hold would make for a much more interesting viewing if the stimuli which informed the movement weren’t revealed to the audience. Lisa Spackman calls the duet “apparitions of a forgotten past” but the piece would benefit from looking to the future and using the talent of its dancers, resisting the temptation to communicate with futile props and gimmicks.