Creator and Director: Vicki Amedume
Described as a ‘poetic mix of dance, circus and furniture!’ Upswing’s Catch-Me was created in 2019 and newly repurposed by creator and director Vicki Amedume for socially distant performance at outdoor festivals and events. Filmed for Newnham Unlocked in August, the show will be performed live at the Dancing City at Greenwich + Docklands International Festival on 5 September.
Catch Me is predicated on the relationship between an unexpected dance pairing, a younger man and an older woman whose interaction is explored across the 13-minutes of Amedume’s choreographed piece. Just who they are and what they mean to each other is for the viewer to decide, as all the qualities that separate them somehow bring them together.
This ambiguity exists right from the start as performers Susan Kempster and Jerone Marsh-Reid seem not to notice the other. Their actions are often separate, he climbs a stack of chairs as she circles a framed Perspex sheet seemingly unaware of one another. They act alone, focusing on the internal, almost hugging themselves with wrapped arms.
Yet, as the show unfolds, the dancers become more mindful of one another, mirroring or reflecting each other’s movements, providing support and guidance by rotating the furniture around the fixed staging area and, eventually, looking directly at one another. The build-up to this synchronised intimacy is sometimes confounding as they both tenderly stroke the barrier between them or gaze lovingly from the nest of chairs – is this a parental experience or a romantic one?
On the whole the circus element of Catch Me is played down and aside from some gymnastic stretches while hanging in various positions from the wooden frame, this is primarily a movement piece, one that occasionally strains at the limitations imposed by the pandemic. The plastic-sheet on wheels allows Kempster and Marsh-Reid to get close to one another but heaving the structure into place looks cumbersome, reducing the fluidity of the dance.
Designed by Becky Minto, on screen this looks like a tight performance space, a rectangular mat with the two physical structures around which the dancers create the relationship as the camera does much with close-up and spin-shots to hone in on the connection between them – whether a physically present audience will feel the same effect is hard to estimate.
Catch Me has a number of emotional notes, however, merging power shapes that hold fists aloft with facial expressions displaying sadness or fear while Finn Anderson’s sound design evolves from a restfully plinky start to something far more daunting. At some point the characters have experienced and quickly lost their connection, an aspect of the show that needs more explanation.
Amedume’s story charts a path from isolation to understating before finishing with a suggestion of mutual loss, and it is this section of the performance, in its final minutes, that is too quickly realised. Nonetheless, Upswing’s exploration of age and gender expectations is an aspect of dance performance that is rarely considered in detail and should be worth catching live at the Dancing City at Greenwich + Docklands International Festival.
Next performance on 5 September at Dancing City at Greenwich + Docklands International Festival.
Or available to watch here