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Sana El-Wakili The Buffered Self

Hannah Ekholm and Faye Stoeser Splice

Paradox Dance Theatre The Hope Within Us

Sana El-Wakili’s
The Buffered Self is at times an overwhelming insight into one woman’s inner turmoil in the wake of loss. Text fires at the audience amidst flashes of movement and overlapping voiceover, with the specificity of experience furthering a feeling of inaccessibility. At halfway a moment of balance is found, with the gentle song of LUCINE sitting perfectly beneath El-Wakili’s more sparse and direct text, with supportive words from the remaining cast. A glimpse of what this work could be, this stripped back approach sees El-Wakili’s remarkable performance shine through. Resolution celebrates the space to explore, and I commend El-Wakili’s willingness to risk so much on stage. Keep going, there’s something there.

Moving as one entity through a dystopian light-scape, Splice’s performers coil and wrap towards each other. Where does one body end and another begin? Hannah Ekholm and Faye Stoeser keep their audience guessing throughout with a blend of intricate arms, vogue influences and bone-breaking flexibility. Ekholm’s exploration of her physical limits is astonishing. To audible gasps she breaks and reforms her limbs in impossible configurations, both entangled in the arms of the sinuous Oliver Chapman and in brief solo moments. Every time the piece reaches the edge of repetitive (occasionally stepping a toe over it) we find yet more variation. A silhouetted creature forms the final illusion, rotating its connected hands hypnotically to close this magic show. I want to see how it was done. Do it again!

Abortion rights, rape and health inequality all converge in Paradox Dance Theatre’sThe Hope Within Us, but no topic feels fully explored. Impassioned text leaves little ambiguity for movement to express, leaving a skilled cast of dancers appear underutilised. In a piece centred around the overpowering of female voices, its strongest moment is arguably a man’s. Carl Nerona’s portrayal of a child of rape, allying with his mother against the brutality of his father, is a unique and engaging perspective. ‘Your voices unheard, are loud,’ he asserts, and this rings true across the work. The cast’s commitment and physicality is more than enough to portray the intensity of feeling, with words often stifling what could be an emotional powerhouse.

Sean Moss

Grappling with themes of loss, grief and mental health, Sana El-Wakili’s The Buffered Self takes a deeply sensitive and autobiographical story as its subject matter. A heavily text-based work, it is driven by a rawness of emotion which finds its most acute expression within the words of its script. Those words have a poetic, rhythmic quality that give The Buffered Self the vibe of a spoken-word piece, yet the imbalanced sound layers throughout make some moments difficult to define. Punctuated by song, simple physicalisation and brief interludes of free-form movement, the four performers navigate their way through what is ultimately a deeply personal story, in an attempt to express the emotions underlying this work. Considering the heartfelt content, it feels more like the audience are a witness to that exploration, than part of the journey.

Choreographed by Hannah Ekholm and Faye Stoeser,Splice revels in the virtuosic articulation of its dancers’ bodies. Drawing influence from the Vogue and Ballroom Scene the work focuses on an intricate choreography of the arms, evolving from acutely timed precision into increasingly hyper-extended, articulated shapes. Like an echo of each other’s bodies, the two dancers (Ekholm & Oliver Chapman) move in tight unison, configuring one form then morphing seamlessly into another. In one moment, Ekholm casually slips into contortion, her limbs a fluid, twisting, reconfiguration of human form. With its electronic dance track, Splice has a commercially cool vibe; a complex puzzle of choreography executed with seamless fluidity.

There’s a vibrant energy to Paradox Dance Theatre’s performance, even if The Hope Within Us deals with sensitive and topical issues. Drawing stylistic influence from both contemporary and hip hop, the work spins through multiple ideas connected with women’s bodies; covering birth, abortion rights, choice and personal agency. The company’s physical connection with their subject matter often leans towards a more literal use of gestural signifiers and, in the short time frame for this piece, the choice to engage with multiple ideas leaves most just lightly touched upon - creating a disconnect between the scattered implications of these topics. However there’s potential within that pool of ideas, notably a monologue delivered by the single male figure in this otherwise female-led work, that suggests an ability to tap into subtler ways to express their subject matter.

Rachel Elderkin