Matthew Paluch sees Sivan Rubinstein's DANCE NO 2° at The Place
|Title||DANCE NO 2°|
|Venue||The Place, London|
|Date||25 February 2023|
The Place had a different feel this Saturday evening: the bar was inviting with warm lights and a film playing, the audience milling and engaging as they saw fit. It was a nice precursor to the main event.
The overarching thought DANCE NO 2° (2021) by Sivan Rubinstein left me with was: in theory yes, in practice no.
Rubinstein is clearly a very intelligent, inquisitive person. And she, with her collaborators, creates apparent atmosphere in lots of ways:
- The openness of the black-box theatre space with no wings.
- The clean palate of off-white, diagonal flooring that builds to a range of multi-levelled platforms.
- Original and diverse lighting (Edward Saunders – all of the above) using live, rippling water effect and strong silhouette.
- Props in the form of two giant sticks that carry a nature-based majesty.
- And a soundtrack (Liran Donin/Gal Cohen) that includes melancholy piano, percussive rhythm and the sounds of diverse weather patterning.
The piece started well with one of the cast of four moving through the space with giant stick number 1, her pace steady, meditative even. She moved stealthily while balancing the long object on her head – Gaia attitude. At one point the stick was swung around creating its own, atmospheric version of wind. All making for a distinctive opening.
However, things didn't stay as so… though the cast of four can't be questioned for their commitment. They were totally involved for the long haul.
The other three cast members first appeared from within the set itself or across the floor. Their opening scene was very floor based, like lizards: low, exploratory, slinky. When verticality was found I struggled with the ‘choreographic' content. It felt dated (in style) and disconnected (from the premise). There was a section of simple walking that grew both in size and strength, and this type of generic choreographic tool needs real purpose to elevate it. We were offered the cast serving ‘relentless sassy stare at audience' throughout, and then one broke into repetitive song. Not for me. The staring returned later when all four sat motionless (for a while!) on the raised section of the set. It still read awkward, and seemed a bit more pointless on the second viewing.
Elsewhere we saw swooshes, swirls, thrashing, writhing, the caterpillar (arms/spine-based), forwards rolls, handstands into forwards rolls (repeatedly?!), headstands with legs doing the splits, frenzied running nowhere, crazed arm circling and the odd near collision. Part retro modern dance, part gym. Movement? A plethora. Actual choreography? Are they different? I think so… I hope so… but it was lacking.
Rubinstein isn't messing around with her intention though. The piece is meant to “rediscover how human existence is influenced by the water, land, and elements we live with”. These aren't easy ideas to encapsulate in thought or language, let alone dance.
The penultimate scene saw the women having a tug of war with stick number 2, and the men doing repetitive ballet-influenced steps in unison. This was the closest to a choreographic ‘something' but felt formulaic in a ‘contemporary dance class exercise' kind of way (temps levé and arabesque with tilt etc).
I want to be able to do more than just describe what happened but had difficulty finding much else within the soul of the movement to communicate. This is disappointing as I think everyone, they and I, were trying to do so. Sometimes the initial intention of creativity can get lost during the process itself. Artists become overly concerned with what they're trying to say and how it should look, and ultimately spend less time developing the choreographic framework through which they can (try to) communicate that intent. Put simply: style over substance.
The final moments saw the inclusion of the film shown in the bar pre-show, projected onto the floor – not the best sightline. It's called Kedeeshah (by Rubinstein & team: https://www.sivanrubinstein.com/kadeesha) and features a lone woman in a desert landscape. She narrates as she's filmed, the wind fluttering her tie-dye headscarf while she muses. She shares wisdom, guidance and spirituality. Her eye contact gentle, yet determined. Kedeeshah made an impact. Kedeeshah I'll remember.
Rubinstein's biography suggests she's got her fingers in lots of different pies. She's clearly an anthropologist (of sorts), and the ethnographic element of the evening definitely makes a worthwhile statement. Moving forwards, I'm eagerly anticipating a choreographic language developing to embody as much purpose, as currently the balance feels too askew for overall cohesion. Onwards.
Matthew Paluch was awarded a place at The Royal Ballet School in 1990 where he graduated in 1997. His first four years as a professional dancer were spent working with London City Ballet, Scottish Ballet, K-Ballet and English National Ballet, becoming a full-time member of ENB until leaving in 2006.
Matthew graduated from the Royal Academy of Dance, Professional Dancers' Teaching Diploma in 2007, and is currently on faculty at The Royal Ballet School. He completed his Masters in Ballet Studies at Roehampton University in 2011 and has been a freelance writer since 2010. He is a Trustee (2021) of the Royal Academy of Dance and works in the Law Sector.