Choreography: Yael Flexer and the dancers
Reviewer: Peter Jacobs
Flexer &Sandiland is the seemingly-unusual collaboration between award-winning choreographer Yael Flexer and digital artist Nic Sandiland. Their work centres on ‘the generating of a sense of intimacy in live performance and digital installation, in a way which acknowledges the physicality and presence of the viewer’.
Disappearing Acts considers ideas of disappearance, exploring the visible and invisible, the exterior and interior. The show is set for a limited audience arranged in a circle, mostly on revolving stools within a larger space – in this case the Compass Room at The Lowry, rather than one of the theatre spaces: a space occasionally used for more durational or installation-based dance work. The audience are passively involved, forming a fragmented wall through which the dancers pass as they reuse and redefine the performance space, using not only the more conventional space within the circle but the spaces around and behind the audience, where they perform in moving pools of light or linger or occasionally appear for an intervention.
Disappearing Acts is a growing accumulation of small scenes that melds pure dance movement, text, light, stories and elements of magic shows and gameshows. All of this is washed over by an intriguing sound design by Sandiland with music by James Keane and Karni Postel.
At first it seems that the dance elements are stronger and more interesting than the use of text, written by much-loved dance artist Wendy Houstoun. The choreography by Yael Flexer and the dancers is certainly wonderful – a myriad of solos, duos, trios and group work from the five distinctive and characterful dancers: movement full of finely-controlled energy punctuated with complex touch-and-response choreography and lifts. Recurring physical motifs form a meaningful part of the accumulation of ideas and impressions.
The effect of the text and fractured stories and interjections – some of which contain some lovely moments, such as the quizmaster who poses questions that are answered through movement that never offer the correct answer – is to build a growing sense of the multiple meanings of the ideas of presence and disappearance under consideration and to inform the movement. The choreography is strong enough to stand alone, but this does serve to richly underpin the internal narrative of the viewer.
Disappearing Acts steadily constructs an ultimately satisfying whole. The large, spare staging manages to establish a sense of intimacy and involvement. The choreography and performances – and the physical proximity of the dancers – is quietly thrilling, and the installation elements and discreetly-impressive tech and lighting and glorious soundscape culminate in a show that delivers a considered and subtle punch. Simplicity belying complexity.
Reviewed on 31 October, 2016 | Image: Chris Nash