From the very beginning of Lockdown 1.0 it seemed to me that dance was the most “at risk” sector of the Arts. Like sports players, dancers train from an early age to reach a physical peak probably in their early 20s and then they have, what, ten good years to perform to the best of their ability, before injuries start to take their toll? Dancers simply don’t have that many years to perform at their best. And when you lose complete years out of your repertoire – well that’s tough. Fortunately, even a pandemic can’t extinguish the desire to create and find new ways for artistic expression. Of course, live theatres are not an option right now; but performers may have a new friend in the form of Zoom. A year ago, we’d barely heard of it; today, where would we be without it?
In an action-packed fifteen minutes, Liam Riddick’s new work for Ffin Dance, The Three Sections, takes the restrictions enforced on it by both Zoom and the pandemic, and works them to its advantage. He has taken Steve Reich’s 1987 composition The Four Sections for its vibrant musical accompaniment, dropping its longer string first section and leaving us with the remaining three parts in all their quirky orchestral splendour. It’s a great choice for contemporary dance, as it challenges both performer and audience to react to and interpret all its different moods and meanings.
By inviting us into the private living spaces of the dancers, Riddick has created an intimate but expansive piece, which reveals not only the claustrophobic imprisonment of working within one room but also the desire to reach out and spill into others. With Catrin Lewis beside her bed, Georgina Turier-Dearden accompanied by a chest of drawers and Julian Lewis in front of his TV set, Riddick gives us a virtual dolls’ house; you’re aware that in real life those rooms aren’t in the same building, yet the movement builds a connection and a story that unites them. At first performing independently, the links start to forge between the dancers, sometimes two by two, sometimes all three, so that their movements start to harmonise.
Despite the inevitable problems and frustrations they will have faced during the creation of this piece (during Lockdown 2.0) with all four people being in separate buildings – indeed, different countries! – together they have created a lively, charming, witty and strangely moving piece that both highlights the individual performers’ characters and encourages them into an ensemble.
Even though individual small spaces have their natural limitations, it’s great to see how combining them can create a much larger performance space. With the dancers sometimes clinging to their back walls, at other times coming right out into the camera at the front, you really get a surprise feeling of performance on a grand stage.
I particularly admired that inexorable progress towards performing as a perfect trio. By linking the dancers and their separate spaces with dynamic choreography, flashes of humour, yearnings for freedom and their tacit shared understanding of how they all relate to each other, The Three Sections not only leaps from room to room but also successfully makes the big jump from the screen into our homes too. Technically superb, and exciting and entrancing to watch – a beautiful new work for the online age.
Photos of the dancers (in An Inspector Calls) by Paul Trask