Masquerade, The Place, London
Wednesday 09 March 2011
There's something under the floor, and it eats duvets. Masquerade, Maresa von Stockert's latest work for her company, Tilted, opens with dancers cuddled up under the covers. Then the glossy black floor shifts and heaves, swallowing the bedclothes.
It's both funny and unsettling, a perfect opening for a work about dreams and surrealism. Over the next hour, Von Stockert's dancers keep transforming what you see, and being themselves transformed. Dancing, they tilt and roll as if gravity were shifting under them. A man's trousers shrink into shorts, leaving him as a self-conscious, bare-legged schoolboy. Hands and legs reach out from the wings.
Von Stockert makes brilliant use of prosthetics, created by SFX artist John Schoonraad. One man brings on a giant model of his head. Crawling inside it, he peers out of his own neck. Then he wriggles, stretching his hands out of the neck opening; suddenly, the head appears to sit naturally on a body, even though it's wildly out of scale. Sarah Gilmartin's lighting design, with softly glowing light bulbs, gets in on the act: this scene is lit by an extra-large bulb.
Dancers cling together, petting and stroking each other's hair, before some of those stroking hands turn out to be disembodied. A woman in a baggy dress sits down and crosses her legs. Then she crosses a third leg – is there someone inside the dress with her? The extra limb is another prosthetic, moved so cleverly that I kept losing track of real and false legs.
The atmospheric soundtrack goes from Nine Inch Nails to Ravel. In one sequence, dancers in evening dresses wander on, their backs to the audience. Adjusting the dresses to show their bare backs, they dance with their shoulders, spines and back muscles, clenching and shivering in time to the Ravel music. At last, one couple move together. She relaxes, but as he strokes her back, he pinches her skin, keeping the dance going.
Von Stockert has always been a distinctive choreographer. Here, she finds an ideal subject for her blend of movement, props and evocative, allusive drama. Masquerade floats from comedy to strange poetry with hallucinatory ease.
Touring to 11 March ( www.tilted.org.uk)
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