If We Go On
Vincent Dance Theatre
The Place, London; October 17, 2009
“No more dancing.” Those are the words that open and close Charlotte Vincent’s “If We Go On.” Spurred on by Aurora Lubos, seemingly the more militant of the two, Patrycja Kujawska adds some specifics: “No more partner work…no more emotion…no more classical music - especially Bach…no more internal rhythms…no more seduction…no more success…no more clichés…”
It is an anti-dance, or at least anti-dance conventions, manifesto that attacks pretty much everything associated with the art form and the expectations of audiences. And even if it leaves you wondering what the point is if all these things are removed, it is rather amusing. Or at least it is until the increasingly loud speech turns to ear-piercing shrieking and the punk rock music becomes far too loud, both totally unnecessary. It does though set the tone for what is a rather unconventional piece of performance art, although whether it is dance, or even dance theatre, is questionable.
It turns into a strong and mostly powerful show that continues to centre around Wendy Houston’s quite texts, most frequently delivered as a disjointed, almost deadpan monologue. These are illuminated by Alex Catona’s live music, movement, and yes, even occasionally dance - including some of the things we were previously told would not happen.
For a while you start to wonder where it is all going, but the performers slowly draw you in as they try to make sense of their situation, feelings and worries. As they question their existence there is a feeling of them desperately wanting to hang on as everything around them seems to fall apart. Although they never evoke empathy, the characters, their circumstance, inner turmoil and dilemmas increasingly hold the interest as dark humour, fear and worry come to the surface.
The cast crash and stumble around the stage, getting ever closer it seems to the point where they cannot go on. On the way are some empty spaces in the piece, pauses when the performers, and it seems time, stand still and nothing happens. These moments of stillness and silence are as important as those full of text, music or movement, and are hugely effective. Eventually, their anger and frustration culminates in the set, some sort of rehearsal room that even at the beginning looked messy, being destroyed as papers are thrown about, chairs tossed around and music stands knocked over.
It ends with a harmonised song that includes the words “Look at us. What are we doing here” and “Who let us loose on the stage?” So, no answers. Vincent says that she wanted to produce something “that offers an alternative aesthetic to the work currently celebrated as dance theatre in the UK.” Whether she has really done so rather depends on the individual perspective of where dance theatre boundaries lie. But whatever your view, the occasionally dark, occasionally humorous “If We Go On” is certainly an engaging piece of theatre, performed by a talented ensemble.
A version of this review with photographs will appear later in the magazine.
"If We Go On" continues on tour to Exeter, Malvern, Brighton, Aberdeen, Hull, Sheffield, Aberystwyth and Bath. In April/May 2010 it can be seen at Montclair State University, NJ. For full details and other UK, US and Canada dates and programmes see http://www.vincentdt.com/calendar.html