Edinburgh Fringe 2021
Spaces Between Us and Satori are two satisfying dance pieces from Australian choreographer Lewis Major, who is envisioning a world of impermanence and shifting atmospheres amongst different patterns of sound, light, and movement.
As Spaces Between Us opens, two dim figures appear with rising arms, fists clenched , and behind them sparse theater lights appear like distant suns. From the start we are in a space of other-worldly theatricality, where these two figures negotiate a dim void by turning, reaching and walking on separated paths. In a satisfying build of intention they move from a tentative game of touching and pushing to an elegant partnering with extensive spins, lunges and suspension of motion. This is one of the few dance pieces I have seen that profits from the camera: the intimacy of the two performers is highlighted in closeups, and the editing is unobtrusive, accentuating the flow of motion and emotion. Both performers are to be commended for both the ease and intentionality in performance. Sarah Wilson particularly stands out for her ability to make every moment important, as she actively lives through each movement, whether turning her head in surprise, or flying through the air on her partner’s shoulder, or spinning into an impossible lunge. The electronic under-scoring was appropriately moody and full of yearning. At the end, we are left with ambiguity; she leaves the dim stage, walking into the darkness as light flickers on her partner’s face. We are left, along with the male dancer on stage, with a sense of lost intimacy, poignancy and gentle separation. I wanted to watch it a second time. The second piece of the performance, Satori, uses similar moody underscoring and much of the same dance vocabulary, which appears to borrow from martial arts, social dance, and modern dance vocabulary, but this time with light sticks as the focal point of the dance. Major’s choreography starts again with two slowly revealed dancers, expanding to a total of 5 dancers and 5 light sticks. There are moments of magic manipulation as the stick becomes a surface to push away from, or to lean onto, or to pursue as it floats away- always a negotiating point between the dancer’s bodies. This exciting premise becomes slightly diluted as the pair of dancers jousting with one stick between them, becomes a group of dancers manipulating 5 light sticks in a continuously unfolding geometric form. The sticks become a straight line, and then a house with a dancer inside it, and then a rotating pentagon. We see different parings and solos escalating into a duet, this time with colored light sticks and two dancers negotiating this new space. Playful, entertaining and thoughtful, I found myself looking for that point of magic when the lightsticks become independent animated objects in motion. The glimpses of that level of technical prowess were mesmerizing, and left me wanting it more consistently. Although the filming of Satori was equally deft, the piece itself relied on the technical manipulation of the lightsticks, and did not rise to the same level of emotional satisfaction as its partner piece, and would profit from a further exploration by the company of the group lightstick manipulation.
However these are two works coming out of Australia that are well worth the ticket price for their professionalism and theatricality of presentation. Full of intentionality and physical exploration, these choreographies are beautifully supported by light and music and are a well-rounded 40 minutes that left me wanting to rewind the video and watch again.