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Nadine Elise Munceysoft surge

Emilie BartonThe Call

Iván Merino Gaspar Lucero del Alba

Clad in iridescent ruffles, three dancers explore states of corporeality and sensuality in soft surge by Nadine Elise Muncey. The dancers first appear in stillness, until one notices the soft rise and fall of chests that gradually transform into sensuous ripples of the torso. The choreography references different forms of intimacies - a dancer dipping their partner, waltz steps, gyrating beside strangers in a club, and thrusting pelvises that simulate sex. The beautiful physicality of the dancers’ movements - rippling bodies that possess a luscious there-ness - easily convey the bodily nature of these different images. Still, I find myself yearning for a connection to be made, for eyes to meet and for skin to actually touch. Before such connectivity can appear, however, the lights fade suddenly and the piece ends.

The Call
by Emilie Barton follows an Angela Carter-esque story with live narration by Barton herself, which involves a red full moon, a journey up a cliff, and Barton’s transformation into a wolf. Her growls, chants and singing constitute the soundscape, which struggle to fill a space like The Place Theatre but is nevertheless a brave choice and valiant attempt. The choreography is pared down and often literal - walking as she “journeys” up the “cliff”, slow turns on the spot as she “transforms”. At the end, Barton cryptically addresses the audience: “Did you make [the journey]? Are you uncomfortable? Do you see me or do you see you?”

Featuring leather harnesses and Spanish religious music, Catholicism and sexual imagery collide and coexist in Iván Merino Gaspar’s Lucero del Alba. A priest-like figure lays an audible kiss on Gaspar’s forehead, and he gazes reverently up at her as her head falls back. The congregation obediently takes a walk on leashes (à la BDSM). Despite such blatant similarities between religious and sexual imagery, the priest (bow and arrow drawn) persecutes Gaspar for his sensual pelvic movements. By the end, however, the tables turn, and the priest bows her head humbly towards Gaspar, who now wields the bow and arrow. This last image of a man persecuting a woman is unsettling, but then, equally so is queerness being punished. Perhaps simply an unfortunate casting coincidence.

Qiao Lin Tan

In rolling waves of voluptuous, gooey movement, three dancers wearing pink iridescent tulle, articulate backbends and extensions that look deliciously edible. Aptly titled soft surge, Nadine Elise Muncey’s trio experiments with how bodies respond to different states of tenderness, both individually and with others. A couple luxuriates together in a series of lazy rolls; another woman melts into a scorpion pose, her toes touching the back of her head. Taking time to breathe meditatively, they smother each action with love and care. Sometimes they speed up or their softness hardens, but this state of being - half-orgasmic orgy, half well-being workshop - continues for some time with little variation. They are a pleasure to watch but never quite seem to find what they’re looking for and an abrupt ending feels a bit too jolting.

Emilie Barton’s
solo merges storytelling, voice work and movement as she releases her inner werewolf. Accompanied by only a blood-red moon projected above her, she walks a solitary journey over imagined cliff tops and a path of animal bones. Emitting primal sounds and hurling herself into chaotic actions, Barton punctuates her engaging story with a disturbing subtext. Sliding from reality into myth through a costume change, she transforms into some kind of she-wolf, not altogether convincingly. The Call is brave work, performed with conviction and skill. Yet its impact dissipates somewhat in the large space, begging for a more intimate setting.

Iván Merino Gaspar
captures the heated religious fervour of Southern Spain’s Holy Week in suitably theatrical movement and gesture. Gaspar and 8 passionate women embody the tense sexuality and cruel physicality of Renaissance religious art. Forming a variety of tableaux that centre Gaspar as a queer victim oppressed by the church, the women enact displays of punishment and retribution on and over his body. A chorus line formed by the matriarchy ritualistically brushing their hair is a menacing image, while a fantastic score that includes rousing trumpet and drum music played during Spain’s big Catholic festivals, accentuates the tightly crafted choreography. I love the idea of Gaspar’s queer battle against fierce religious zealots, but I’m less happy about him replacing his own victimhood with that of the women.

Josephine Leask