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Filmed in Lockdown: Culture in Quarantine – BBC iPlayer

Reviewer: Maryam Philpott

Choreographers: Corey Baker, Simeon Qsyea, and Botis Seva

Directors: Corey Baker, Simeon Qsyea, Ben Williams, Arthur Le Fol, and Lina Johansson

The BBC Culture in Quarantine series has proved a great resource during lockdown, showing pre-recorded productions of plays, opera and music performances that have helped to while away the many months at home. But more than just an archive, the BBC has commissioned new content as well and Filmed in Lockdown adds four new dance pieces to the collection.

First up, the Swan Lake Bath Ballet, and hats off to choreographer and director Corey Baker because this three-minute piece is a triumph of dance, performance art and video installation in which male and female dancers from all over the world contribute to the overall effect. The dancing is beautiful of course, although to call it movement would be more accurate given the limitations of the bathtub, with beautifully shaped leg and arm movements that demonstrate what an elite group of athletes ballet dancers really are.

But its genius and drama is in the editing as Baker splices together images of his troupe side-by side, all moving simultaneously. Every moment is carefully staged to reflect the soaring drama of Tchaikovsky’s score while visually the use of coloured water, candles and even dancers buried in feathers add to the effect. With input from ballet companies across the world including The Royal Ballet, Paris Opera Ballet, National Ballet of Canada and San Francisco Ballet, this incredible three minutes is quite the international achievement.

Flying Home by BirdGang Ltd and directed by Simeon Qsyea could not be more different as six masked figures perform a street dance piece in a screen divided into multiple boxes. Designed to reflect our video calling experience, Qsyea plays with the size and shape of these containers to create scrolling effects that move the dancers across the screen or creates a sense of the performers crossing from one box to another, emerging from the thick white lines between them.

There is something quite menacing about Qsyea’s approach, not just the concealed faces but also the sharp geometric patterns that the dancers create with their arms and upper bodies, painted against a uniform black background. Ryan Hesletine’s thudding music has an eerie screech that feels urban and fresh, entirely reflected in the choreographic choices.

CAN’T KILL US ALL is almost twice as long as the other shorts in the selection and examines the pressures of lockdown for what appears to be a single father and his toddler son. Choreographed and performed by Botis Seva, this film has a stop motion effect that charts growing frustration and decline as Seva’s boredom and sense of confinement take their toll, relieved only by late night runs in the city and park.

Directed by Ben Williams, there is no sense of resolution in this piece, only a building drama that seems to take in notions of fatherhood, masculinity and personal freedom. It ends with a vocal message from Seva’s mother to her son expressing pride and admiration for his achievements, a contrasting touch but one that slightly confuses the overall idea.

Finally, many of us will have been enjoying our living rooms of late but Mimbre’s The Sofa Dance utilises this furniture staple in a whole new way. Performed by 30 acrobats, Arthur Le Fol and Lina Johansson’s 5-minute film has a home movie quality as it cuts between different sofas or fills the screen with nine or even sixteen individual images to a jaunty track that feels like a work-out video.

Predominantly performed by women, there is a refreshing diversity in The Sofa Dance that allows for different body shapes and ages all contributing increasingly sophisticated gymnastic movements. There is a fun feeling to this segment, recording families larking about and tricks going slightly wrong, aided by the very natural style that Le Fol and Johansson employ making it all feel spontaneous but coordinated.

At just 20-minutes this four-film collection is eclectic and impressively captured. These latest Culture in Quarantine shorts prove that even when live performances are no longer possible, dancers have been keeping themselves busy and active with inventive new content that both reflects and takes advantage of our strangely confining conditions.

Available until June 2021

Available here to stream: Swan Lake Bath Ballet, Flying Home, CAN’T KILL US ALL, The Sofa Dance

The Reviews Hub Score

Impressively captured

The Reviews Hub - London

The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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