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Annelise BucherRELAY

The 12th Floor (Charis Crudgingtonand Mette Nilsen)I’m sorry to disappoint you all

Wency Lam Is Any Body Home?

Opening on an empty stage with a bench in the corner, Relay by Annelise Bucher features a series of encounters between five dancers in a park. Some relationships are obvious; for example, a dancer bumps into another and spills coffee. Another pair engage in casual conversation. Other relationships are not as clear. Multiple solos, duets and unison work emerge in the choreography, but I struggle to understand the impulse behind each encounter.

In I’m sorry to disappoint you all, the ebb and flow of the relationship between two individuals are set against a film projection of eyes, skyscrapers and flowing water. Choreographer-performers Charis Crudgington and Mette Nilsen cycle through various states of intimacy and separation. A tangle of limbs and embraces breaks apart suddenly, gentle touch turning aggressive. Collapsing, shuddering heaps disappearing into soft smiles, warm gazes, and a long embrace. It was an intimate portrait of relationships, maturely approached and performed.

Is Any Body Home? by Wency Lam cuts between two performers in scenes of panic and isolation. A dancer staggers onstage with a severed (mannequin) foot, then a whole leg and a hand. Gathering the body parts around her, the image of the performer piggybacking a faceless person magically clicks into place. Another dancer furiously rubs at her skin, engaging in a one-sided telephone call (“Hello? Hello??”). Images of isolation and longing emerge as a duet develops, the skillful lighting design by Ali Hunter carving out the space and effectively controlling the shadowy atmosphere.

Finally, a suitcase is wheeled to the centre, an arm hanging out. Unzipping the suitcase reveals a body folded uncomfortably into the small space, unmoving and mannequin-like herself. Water poured over the body rouses her to life as a voice asks “Where are you from? Where is home?” A suitcase filled with water - to me, a suggestion of diasporic routes over the seas, and the work’s exploration of “home” fell into place. Although the lights come on for curtain calls soon after, I find myself yearning for further investment in that watery suitcase. Still, the choreography is evocative, the images of isolation beautiful and melancholic, and the dancers dedicated to the work.

Qiao Lin Tan

There’s a strong compositional idea behind Annelise Bucher’sRelay: to explore the ripples and ricochets that casual encounters can have. The stage becomes a public transit zone where characters criss-cross. One has a twitchy wrist, which induces a kind of low-key butterfly effect as she passes breezily by. Others are more personally defined: strolling to a headphone soundtrack, meeting for a chat, sidling along a bench, reaching out, having a bit of a meltdown. Motifs get picked up, magnified and overlaid, in motion and in sound – but there’s a middling, meandering quality to it all that leaves the material feeling less substantial than its idea.

There’s a danger, in I’m Sorry to Disappoint You All, that the ideas – something to do with an intimate dynamic between two characters (Charis Crudgington and Mette Nilsen) – will be obscured by the material. There are sucking sounds, soothing sonorities, anxious rhythms, radio and traffic noise; whispered words, looped and layered; multiple film projections including spinning cityscapes, rivers, skies, hands, collages of glancing eyes. Yet all this seems to nourish rather than overwhelm the central relationship, which goes through many cycles: an opening so close that the dancers’ unfurling limbs look like the fronds of a single fern; antagonistic grapples; long separations, beyond each other’s orbit; circling steps and tumbles in parallel, as if tugged by the same tide. In the end, the poetic accumulation of images and sensations evokes a rich relationship that was, and still remains, essentially private.

The anatomy of Wency Lam’sIs Any Body Home? is admirably clear. At first the scenes alternate. Stage right: Hsinyu Wu, a kind of mad scientist, brings on body parts – foot, leg, hand – to horror-film music. Stage left: Esme Lovell Popps, a maddened woman, scrabbles hands over her own body, shrieking hello? hello? into her foot, or leg, or hand, as if calling to phantom limbs. Their separate spaces merge into dramatic but baffling encounters in which the foot and leg, but not the hand, are sidelined. A wheeled suitcase with a hand dangling from its zipper opens to reveal a real body, packed inside, over which Popps pours water to revive. Er, what? Though I salute its unboxed imagination, the piece feels like all parts and no whole – which is, perhaps, apt.

Sanjoy Roy