The “Wild Card” event at Sadler’s Wells gives young artistes the opportunity to present their work at the Lilian Baylis Studio in Angel. Upcoming artists are invited to present the work of their choice three times a season.
The first production in the Wild Card initiative this year featured work by Bellyflop, a London based online magazine run by eight dance artistes whose writing activity runs parallel to their contemporary dance and performance practices. The opening night of the two day event saw four avant-garde performances by some emerging artists. Though all the performances were fantastic, the one that particularly appealed to me was the first piece called “William William”.
“William Wiliam” is choreographed and performed by Jamilla Johnson Small and Mira Kautto. The words that should aptly sum up this piece are simple, deep and effective. The simplicity is elaborate and the effect is deep. The piece is a homage to rock gods of the past and challenges conventional notions of the feminine by seeking to claim “masculinity” as an aspect of the female.
The composition consists of three sections, namely – The Chase, The Catch and The Last Stand. In the first section of the dance piece-The Chase, the dancers succeed brilliantly in blurring the distinction between male and female by a combination of moves, costume and make up. They are graceful yet strong, they evoke a very female sensuousness while displaying a blunt machismo in every move. Initially the two dancers (simply clad in long vests and red sneakers) sashays into the stage with robust yet lucid movements. The stage design is austere yet powerful. Big bold letters reading William William hang down as a header. A square dais sits in the middle of the stage. A very light wash of yellow light illuminates just part of the stage and the two dancers start speaking echoing a recorded voice. As they finish, the music begins.
As the section unfolds, the gender of the two dancers are gradually revealed. The apparently androgynous dancers are female.
In the following section-“The catch”, the dancers make an appearance in new, briefer attire with bare torsos and fluorescent aluminium coloured short pants. The lithe femininity of their bodies contrast with their macho dance movements, raising questions about conventional gender identity. A mellow white light which dissolves into golden hues illuminates the bottom half of the dancers. They have now moved onto the elevated square platform. At this point the dance sharpens its focus and the music recedes somewhat to the background. What remains is a constant rhythm of a hollow sound with an occasional thump and a thud. The sound composition by Antoine Bertin is brilliant and perfectly compliments what happens on stage.
In the closing section The last stand, the well honed technique of repeating movements is used successfully. The dancers in the meantime take another costume change, brilliantly choreographed, within the piece. This last section lends balance to the whole composition with its emphasis on reinforcing the message through the use of repetitive movements.
“William William” – an intensely gripping performance with very high energy levels from the dancers!