A camp for all seasons

Five campers embrace the great outdoors to the strains of Vivaldi
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The Independent Culture

The first full-length dance-theatre piece by the up-and-coming choreographer Arthur Pita, Camp takes a surreal and comical look at human behaviour when five people pitch tents together, set to Vivaldi's The Four Seasons. "They go on a journey through the seasons; Camp is about how seasons affect us emotionally and physically," Pita says.

The first full-length dance-theatre piece by the up-and-coming choreographer Arthur Pita, Camp takes a surreal and comical look at human behaviour when five people pitch tents together, set to Vivaldi's The Four Seasons. "They go on a journey through the seasons; Camp is about how seasons affect us emotionally and physically," Pita says.

The dancer Rachel Lopez de la Nieta is a spiritual, burqa-wearing space cadet. " Camp opens with her giving a speech about how happy and free and springy she feels, but it is not really the truth," Pita says. Tiziana Fracchiolla arrives dressed inappropriately in a tight dress, high heels and sunglasses. "She is like one of those desperate housewives, Italian and looking for a man."

Nature Man is danced by the bearded Robin Dingemans. "He goes into his tent a big boy scout and comes out an egomaniac dictator, trying to control the camp in military style." He comes to a sticky end, however: in this environment only the truly strong survive the winter, and he is killed by his fellow campers, in a murder they justify as "putting an animal out of its misery".

Ben Ash plays the survivor ("He camouflages himself. He can adopt everyone's personality") and Michael Pomero is the "relaxed Brazilian mountain man", says the choreographer. "Initially, he is in tune with nature, but gets into an unhealthy relationship with Tiziana's elegantly dressed Italian woman," says Pita. "She latches on to him for support. They go through a whole seasonal relationship epic, until eventually she buries him in the winter. He dies very poetically, in a musical moment. When her companion suddenly disintegrates, she fades away because she simply can't cope without him."

Death in Camp is not always physical. "When Rachel's tent deflates itself, it is a metaphor for her deflating into nothingness," he says. "She returns spiritually in the following spring and comes forward to sing a song... I want something optimistic at the end. It is the return of spring. We are thinking of using 'Oh, What a Beautiful Morning' from Oklahoma."

Pita was an associate artist at The Place in 2002-04, launching his Open Heart company in 2003 with Boomshe Sheboom - a solo dance for Kate Coyne, featuring 30 drummers - and Bugger, A Fairy Tale - a duet about a one-night stand on a mountain. He is choreographing La Forza del Destino for the Lithuanian National Opera and will work on Royal Opera's new Carmen.

"To make the audience cry, you have to make them laugh," he says. "There is humour in everything, even in a serious opera - such as in the orgy scene in La Forza del Destino. But Camp is my most theatrical work to date. It feels more me than the work I have made before. I am totally inspired by physical theatre and movement. I find watching abstract dance difficult. It washes over my head. I am interested in humanity."

'Camp', The Place, Robin Howard Dance Theatre, London WC1 (020-7387 0031; www.theplace.org.uk) 27 April to 14 May

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