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In Between Collective H A y w I R e
Jonathan Aubrey-BentleyTimothy
Manon ServageSpectrum

A reflection on the way we look, performers Lydia Ayllón and Sara Canabal stare onto the audience as through a mirror, beckoning us into a question of identities, tangled within the knots of their hairs. Each strand is a delicate guitar string, escalating into intertwining threads of introspection and blending together the rhythms and tradition of flamenco with the flow and exploration of contemporary dance. Like a gentle breeze in your hair on a balmy summer day, HAywIRe is reminiscent of a long forgotten faded memory, a feeling of warmth as you exit the piece. It reminds me that sometimes when we look in the mirror, we do not see ourselves, the way other people see us. And that it didn’t really matter if I fixed my hair this morning, it would be messed up in the wind anyway.

Timothy by Jonathan Aubrey-Bentley cleverly contrasts audience perspectives, creating a dynamic interplay between Timothy the Janitor and Timothy the Chimpanzee. Set in The Great Zoo, the narrative offers a fascinating twist that blurs the lines of human-defined notions of what is deemed interesting to watch, drawing parallels between the two Timothys' everydays. The piece while seeming simple, is dynamic and remains playful throughout, prompting reflection between watching animals in a zoo and watching dancers or performers on a stage, raising questions about the subjective nature of performance and the role of societal expectations in defining what captures our attention.

Spectrum endeavours to explore the complexities of identity within the spectrum of human experiences. However, challenges arise as the piece grapples with the fallacy of contemporary dance being perceived as difficult to understand, hindering accessibility. While the performers showcase a high level of technical skill, the performance feels tailored for a specific audience, perhaps those well-versed in contemporary dance. I personally felt that there was a lack of genuine, intentional contact between dancers, despite having a major focus on showcasing group choreography and touch as a device, which diminished emotional resonance. Coupled with jarring audio transitions between music, it detracted me from the overall immersive experience. It did however reference iconic contemporary dance elements, such as the headpile from Bronislava Nijinska's "Les Noces", and may excel in reality in being a mainstream audience’s first experience of contemporary dance.

Brian Toh

In Timothy,Jonathan Aubrey-Bentley alternates between portraying a gorilla and his enclosure cleaner, a former contemporary dancer who shares his name. As Aubrey-Bentley embodies the former, convincingly contorting his facial expressions, scratching his torso and crawling on his knuckles, the auditorium lights remain up, unsettlingly highlighting the audience’s voyeurism. Moments of stillness and staring are also uncomfortable, reflecting the loneliness and monotony of life in captivity. Funnily enough, "human Timothy"’s life seems just as confining as that of his primate counterpart: he repeatedly sweeps leaves into neat piles and cleans imaginary glass. The EDM music blasting through his headphones is the only connection to his former creative life. The parallels drawn between the two characters create a clever, if unnerving, comment on the plight of workers living under contemporary capitalism.

An eight-strong cast rallies against binary categorisation in Manon Servage’sSpectrum, calling instead for the embrace of “nuances, depth, and colour.” The topic is dealt with a little too literally: dancers perform angsty floor work while trapped inside boxes of light, and strain to break free as the rest of the cast pull them backwards. The variety of movement styles used in Spectrum also feels somewhat jarring, mainly due to the sudden transitions between them. This said, the cast is highly versatile, and executes commercial, contemporary, and jazz choreography to a high standard. I particularly enjoy their classical-inspired solos, in which fluid turns and leg extensions unravel beautifully across the stage.

A meditation on hair as a vehicle of self expression, In Between Collective’s duet H A y w I Re opens with a floor-based solo, the performer’s tresses taking on a life of their own as she whips them in circular motions. While visually engaging, it’s not until later that the thematic connection between hair and identity becomes more apparent: as the duo pace back and forward, fiddling with their long locks and pulling them back into different styles before immediately unfurling them, they allude to how our aesthetic choices influence how we’re perceived, and the anxious indecisiveness this can elicit. Scenes in which the dancers engage in flamenco-fuelled showdowns—their rhythmical foot stamps and finger clicks dramatically piercing the gentle guitar-led soundscore—also prompt me to think about how women are often pitted against each other in relation to their physical appearance.

mily May