The Critics - Dance: And here comes the chopper to chop off his head
Salome St Pancras Chambers, London Gary Carter The Place, London
Sunday 02 May 1999
This is important. There's safety in numbers, and potential for rib-nudging and banter. Alone, in the dark, you feel got-at and vulnerable. A smile becomes a leer; laughter, demonic. The instructions say to follow a line of red string, so you do. It leads up a grand stairwell of mosaic-tiled opulence worthy of a Delacroix harem. Girls with trays pass by on the stairs, linger seductively and hold your gaze overlong. There is nothing on the trays - no head of John the Baptist.
The trail takes you to a series of dingy cells. Some have videos playing - of a woman clawing through spider's web, of a couple kissing, of someone reciting the mysogynist writings of Gustave Moreau. Unwholesome-looking females appear in person, rubbing themselves against mirrors, or dementedly dashing their bodies against walls. Others - more alarmingly - have voices: "Like looking at me, do you?" or "Move along, chop chop, but mind your head" (not like that John chappie, they imply).
There is dance proper, but only glimpsed briefly, through slots in a peep show, or through distant lighted doorways, most effective when two or three women appear as one, like in a hall of mirrors. "Go away!" shouts one undulating figure, apparently annoyed at being looked at. We are voyeurs, like it or not.
Moreau, Beardsley, Wilde, Strauss. Salome's story was taken up by the last fin de siecle for a reason. Was it because she confirmed society's deep-down belief about the rotten core of womanhood? Manipulator, sexual monster, victim and scapegoat: all these faces are here in this free collection of images. Seven Sisters's road to Salome is not a comfortable ride, nor does it take the scenic route. But it's memorable, if you dare to go it alone.
Curiosity and proximity demanded that I make the short hop across Euston Road to the Place to see a show by Gary Carter. This odd-ball performer- choreographer is unique in dance - as far as I know - in having a day job that involves earning big money behind a desk. (In fact, Carter runs part of the European TV conglomerate that brought us Changing Rooms, of all things.) He turns out to be a most compelling performer.
I have never seen anything like Nightlight, a combination of candid spoken memoir and dreamy visual imagery that manage to express the most complex feelings about youth, ageing, and the glamour of memory. On a stage strewn with goose down and pebbles, Carter, sporting beautifully- cut suits, draws delicate support from dancer Rosemary Lee and emotional grit from diva Julie Wilson. A strange show, and strangely affecting.
'Salome': St Pancras Chambers, NW1 (0171 387 0031) today. 'Gary Carter': Bonnington Gallery, Nottingham (0115 9419 419) 10 May.
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