In Plain Clothes, Siobhan Davies Studios, London

Steps cut with a scalpel
Click to follow
The Independent Culture

High on the top floor, under a curious ribbon roof that allows spectacular slitted views of the London sunset, Davies and her nine performers revealed this week not just what it means for beauty to engender beauty, but an entirely new concept for dance. Just as Davies thinks that spectators should never be far from the action, so she believes that dance itself will benefit from close contact with other areas of human endeavour. For her latest work, she invited a heart surgeon, an architect, a landscape designer and a linguist in on the creative process - not to suggest steps, but to exchange information on their subject. She also asked each of them to give a pre-performance talk.

I'm not sure surgeon Francis Wells should give up the day job yet, but his little spiel about core consciousness and extended consciousness ("the galaxy of our minds") was stirring as well as apt. Part of Davies' idea is that these talks will focus the audience's minds in a different way, encourage them to make new connections with what they see. But it's also about Davies and her dancers gaining insights too. And In Plain Clothes suggests she's on to something.

Where Davies' recent pieces have seemed increasingly cerebral, this hour-long rumination is taut with evocative incident, glinting with life. It is full of Davies' hallmarks, playing with ideas about generic everyday movement (who else would cast abstract dance from the daily trudge to work or the body restless in sleep?). It explores the gamut of human emotion in duets about weightlessness and weightedness, pro- action and passivity. One duet partner is comatose, slumped against the man as he props up her limbs. Another, tender and athletic, floats almost ballet-like in arching lifts. That I could faintly hear the dancers' bones clicking, catch every nuance, almost feel their breath, made the whole thing more personal, like a coat I was trying for size. If this is the way forward for dance performance in the 21st century, then bring it on, we're ready.

jenny.gilbert@independent.co.uk

Siobhan Davies Studios, St George's Rd, SE1 (0870 730 1414) to 18 May; then touring

Comments