Ghosts behind the eyes from LIMBS dance works (1984)

STEP OUT
6-19 April 1984
W5 Magazine

A really good dance performance can leave ghosts behind your eyes – images from the collage of movement which has been your focus for the past two hours or so.

The Limbs show has given me ghosts.

Some I remember for their wit.

There’s a man in blue overalls with shocking pink legwarmers round his ankles, in Overall Ease by Garry Lester. His careful attention to instructions for progressive relaxation leave him laid back and languid, his exaggerated movements eliciting wry chuckles from the audience.

There are solo dancers in Tango who partner their respective oversized cushions with nonchalance. She wrestles with hers, tosses it to the floor and sprawls on it, dances with it in approved tango style; he flirts and converses with his, tosses it cape-wise around his shoulders, then pounces to sink his teeth into it. Our laughter comes in gusts at the incongruity created by choreographer Mary Jane O’Reilly.

Another set of ghosts remain for their virtuosity.

From Chris Jannides’ Study for two dancers, I have two grey-clad women, bodies revealed in every sinew, calmly moving through space. They are isolated by their private patterns of movement at first, intent and precise. Subtle variations enter these patterns as a gesture or shape is absorbed by one from the other, influencing the dynamic and flow and eventually coalescing to a unison phrasing. The moment of recognition of mutual influence is marked by eye contact and a smile, and the women then return to their original patterns, setting off into new segments of space.

A marked contrast to the women in grey is provided by three women in black and white partnered by 3 Boxes in the work of the same name by Ruby Shang.  These three are memorable for their stamina as they relentlessly skip through repeatedly traced floor patterns, arms whirling and torsos upright, around and through the boxes. They are exhausting to watch, their skipping and turning only occasionally relieved by stamping and walking, sitting or standing on their boxes, or balancing on them before rolling off and around. The sardonic subtitle …694 skips!! help! sums it up for me, too.

Others stay with me for their intriguing shapes, most notably in two works by Douglas Wright.

Ranterstantrum is Wright’s most recent contribution to the repertoire. It is mysterious, complex, and faintly disquieting. Black-sheathed figures circulate in a deep gloom, their bodies marked by patches of glowing colour, identification for some ritual, perhaps. Patterns and groupings continually recycle, reinforcing the driving rhythm of the music by Glenn Branca, giving a feeling of frenzy and anguish. Frozen totem shapes appear at times, one curiously predatory, spider-like, appears more than once, punctuating the passage of stamping, tossing figures before dissolving to slither away. A vivid shape to remember.

The most beautiful shapes, however, are from Wright’s Knee Dance, set to Laurie Anderson music, and now a Limbs classic. We’ve seen it twice before, toured with different casts. It is an elegant work, the dancers forming a carefully sculpted triad. They flow smoothly from one shape to the next with pulsing movements, often on their knees, or furling to reach their goal, repeated gestures echoing the structure of the music. We deserve to savour the beauty without the contamination of works following closely on its heels as they did here where it opened the programme.

Limbs brought four new dancers with them this time, and new works are promised in their July tour which is also to be longer than a one-night stand here in the capital. That should give us a chance to lay some Limbs ghosts to rest, and to find new ones to take their places.

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