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Hamza AliBhai

Alina Sakkomade of soft, muscular material

What Is Written Dance CompanyDon't give up...I'm trying

In Hamza Ali’sBhai, two men embody a maleness that is multifaceted and undeniably brown – they compete in physical exercises, Bhangra at a club, share an intimate brotherly hug that turns aggressive. A particularly domestic scene repeats throughout the work, where the performers arrange their shoes neatly onstage and methodically cleanse their hands, feet, and face, before rolling out an Islamic prayer mat. Compared to moments of hypermasculinity – such as increasingly desperate rope-skipping or the (incredibly off-putting) flirty looks thrown at the audience – such quiet, everyday scenes imbue the masculinity in Bhai with a three-dimensionality. Whilst I question the relevance of some sections and the barrage of text used in the second half, Ali’s work sits comfortably at the intersections of maleness, brownness, and Britishness, executed by incredibly dynamic performers.

Made of soft, muscular material
by Alina Sakko is a humorous and expertly executed anti-performance performance that questions the traditional audience-spectator relationship of entertainer/entertained. Sakko, with her charismatic onstage presence and willingness to invest time and attention into the simplest of steps – makes us work for it with loooooong pauses, repetitive windmilling arms and excruciatingly slow, small movements. She meanders around, uncaring of the audience, vocalising to herself. Her coy glances (she knows we are watching) and her no-effs-given attitude intrigues me. The end arrives unexpectedly – karaoke comes on, house lights brighten, and Sakko remains silent as she shuffles out the theatre doors – and responsibility for the karaoke performance is unceremoniously thrust into the audience’s hands.

Hofesh Schecter meets street dance in Don’t give up…I’m Trying by What Is Written Dance Company. Brief scenes of grief are overshadowed by good ol’, pure dance phrases, containing some beautiful spatial designs and accompanied by a lighting design that skilfully controls the onstage atmosphere. When the dancers are together, they are *together* and their combined energy moves the space. However, the moments of sorrow wedged between are unconvincing – existing at surface-level on the choreography rather than driving it. A tense, krumping solo by one brilliant dancer – that emerges raw, from deep within the muscles – almost gets there, but it dissipates quickly, and I am left wanting for true emotion beyond the glitz and sheen of the choreography.

Qiao Lin Tan

"Bhai is a playfully dark dive into the intersections of movement and masculinity for brown men in Britain." So starts Hamza Ali's brief programme notes and spot-on they are – others at Resolution take note. Ali and the impressive, muscly Azan Ahmed, use physical theatre and occasional monologues to make their brown men cultural points with light humour cutting through much deeper references to pride in family, the language and the future. While lengthy spoken text and too many scenes could get in the way of a message, Bhai seemed at its best miming the gestures of life like ritual washing or just joshing around. And the very best of Bhai was actually nothing to do with any specific culture but Ali talking about seeing his deaf brother (vividly brought to life by Ahmed) weirdly dancing around when first hearing a personal stereo. Deeply touching.

More physical theatre followed, and watching Alina Sakko perform her Made of soft, muscular material was like voyeuristically spying a drunk stagger around at a party. Here were moments of surreal bonkers fun coupled to embarrassingly perplexing interludes where nothing much happened at all. Sakko, clad in a much-abused blue fur coat, has real stage magnetism, and a sense of danger hovered over it all - in that she reminded me of the late lamented Nigel Charnock. There were certainly times when she totally lost my attention, but a disarming sozzled smile could instantly win me back. Sakko is a diamond in the rough but one to watch (preferably drunk!)

The most overtly dancy work of the night coupled high production values with a well-rehearsed and slick group of eight stage-devouring dancers – yeah! Jean Pierre Nymangunda's Don't give up...I'm trying (for his What Is Written Dance Company) was a contemporary (with a dash of hip-hop) piece about grieving, and the blurbs promised a very deep and emotional plunge into the trauma of loss. Sadly, I wasn't drawn in by what felt like a polished and glossy musical theatre piece, with really sharp lighting cues, at some variance with the unflashy rawness of loss. Grieving was shown at its best in the occasional solos and duets, and I so wanted more of that from what are a terrific bunch of communicative dancers.

Bruce Marriott