Rosemary Butcher Company, Robin Howard Dance Theatre, The Place, London

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

Rosemary Butcher's new piece is a stunner, made by a choreographer who has been treading her radical path for almost 30 years and just gets better and better. The title may be a puzzle, but Still-Slow-Divided achieves its impact through a superlative fusion of choreography, sound and light, all equally perfect.

Rosemary Butcher's new piece is a stunner, made by a choreographer who has been treading her radical path for almost 30 years and just gets better and better. The title may be a puzzle, but Still-Slow-Divided achieves its impact through a superlative fusion of choreography, sound and light, all equally perfect.

Although always in charge, Butcher works collaboratively, guiding her dancers into inventing movement which she then sifts and organises. For the genesis of this piece, she had her four dancers study the moves of parachuting and rock-climbing, so that they could recycle them into dance. Sounds like unlikely material for compelling choreography? On the contrary: the motifs of tugging, lunging and falling have an on-the-edge intensity that has you clutching the sides of your seat. Certain postures are recognisable– the magnificent Lauren Potter tying an invisible rope around her waist, Paul Clayden yanking with his arms, Potter carrying Mark Lorimer on her back. But because these movements are viewed from unexpected angles and extrapolated, they become abstracted. The dancers cease to be sky-divers or climbers. Rather, they have the body language of people in some non-specified extremity – people pushed to an emotional brink perhaps, or in physical danger, fighting imbalance and gravity, desperately helping each other.

Their movements, freeze-framed, are rerun repeatedly as in a dream. There is Potter lunging over and over, her hair flying; Deborah Jones rushing frenetically about; the men, twisting and collapsing. Cathy Lane's sound collage – soft whirring, buzzing, scraping – adds to the drama. Butcher really knows how to give a piece an overall rhythmic breath, carefully gauging the length and shape of the movement sequences, while keeping the dynamic driving forcefully forward. By the time the abrupt end arrives, the impetus has built to fever pitch. The dancers throw themselves fearlessly in contorted calligraphies, which seem all the more violent for being contained within the confines of two squares of light on the floor.

Fractured Landscapes, Fragmented Narratives (1998) is more complicated in its staging, with projected video shots of the two dancers – Jones and Lorimer – echoing the postures of their dance. At first, Johnny Clark's limpid score and the quiet, evenly paced choreography seem too low-key, but gradually and imperceptibly everything encircles you, until you are completely gripped. The piece is essentially a duet, full of strange and mysterious motifs. Juxtaposed with the static, fragmentary poses of their video counterparts, the live dancers seem to be taking us back to a distant past when their duet was complete and uninterrupted. So although they perform impassively, their dance once again acquires a profound emotional dimension about time and memory and togetherness. Butcher, who started her career as a clinically cool minimalist, has become a contemplator of the human condition.

Comments