Sophie Partridge is a regular at the annual Resolution! dance event at The Place, London. On 23 January Arc Dance Company performed A Sense of Beauty, produced by Turtle Key Arts as part of the festival.
Every year, it seems the Resolution event proves more popular with Dancey Peeps and The Place again was almost bursting at the seams for the 2013 event. It’s even more enticing, when you know disabled performers will be participating and particularly, when the work is by a company that you don’t have previous knowledge of!
The performers of Arc in this piece - four female and one male – utilised a set comprising of two vertical ladders, connected by a horizontal bridge ladder. Silks hung from that bridge and musical instruments were visible behind. At various points all the performers interacted with these elements and the musical score, singing as a chorus throughout the performance.
The piece opened with a wheelchair-using woman gently levering herself up, out of her `chair and into the silks. Throughout, it was if the silks themselves became a sixth performer, echoing the motions of the dancers.
Sometimes the silks acted as a friend, literally cocooning and keeping safe the first performer and at other times, appeared to be used in anger against her by the other performers. That first performer was always supported in her movements by either the set or other dancers and as such, illustrated how it is possible to dance independently yet through collaboration with others.
The piece was apparently inspired by the works of Russian painter Marc Chagall and aimed to utilise the unique physiology of each performer, through use of music, movement and words. Chagall's painting style was reflected in the performers costumes.
Whilst three of the women were dressed in `dance clothes’, a fourth female dancer was wearing a `country’ style yellow-flowered dress, matching the bright white shirt of the male dancer. Interesting then that the `couple’ in the piece, seemed to be not her and him but him and the woman encumbered within the silks.
It felt as if the brightly attired woman – another of the disabled performers – was almost a ghost-like presence in the piece; there to facilitate the dynamics and relationships of the others. Sometimes she directly interacted, but mostly seemed a benign spirit looking on. At times she spoke. Unfortunately with my hearing-loss, I did not completely catch the words although the refrain towards the pieces culmination, did stick in my memory:
"I dance for all your worlds. I dance to be remembered.” From this text the whole tone completely shifted as she began to dance solo, to a suddenly up-tempo beat. The other on-stage performers, then invited us in the audience on to the stage to dance with them.
Like most Good Things however, this moment ended all too soon and we were literally left with a sense, of beauty. Those words felt particularly poignant coming from a disabled performer to an audience which comprised many `Bendy’ peeps such as myself.
In these troubled times, we must Dance fierce and bright as does this piece by Arc, indeed to be remembered...
Arc Dance is ActOne's professional performance dance company. To find out more go to www.artsbase.org.uk/
To read a review of the work in progress by Katie Fraser go to www.disabilityartsonline.org.uk/ActOne-ArtsBase-Sense-of-Beauty
Please see https://vimeo.com/49366529 for a short video clip of the work in progress