DanceNorth WestReview

Humanhood: Zero – The Lowry, Salford

Artistic Direction: Rudi Cole & Julia Robert

Original Music: Gyda Valtysdottir, Alex Forster, Azizi Cole, Xhosa Cole, Shahzad Ismaily

Reviewer: Peter Jacobs

Zerois the first full-length duet by Humanhood, a company founded in 2015 by dancer/Artistic Directors Rudi Cole and Julia Robert. A 15-minute extract won 1stprize at Madrid International Choreography Competition. The work now stands at around fifty minutes.

If the audience are puzzled why they are held outside The Lowry’s Aldridge Studio until the show’s start time, all is wordlessly explained as we are lead single file into the darkened space and taken on a slow, contemplative circuit of the stage before taking our seats. At the centre of the stage a large perfect, powered-chalk circle: within it Rudi Cole and Julia Robert already absorbed in a small ritual dance. The formalised entry of the audience is a mood-setting element of ritual.

Zerohas a pleasing sense of time manipulated and slowed, as if you are being enabled to perceive things that are constantly present but unseen: a different kind of focus. The pair – identically dressed in costumes by Mark Howard that are both fashion-forward and suggestive of religious robes from the East – are tightly-synchronised with a high level of unspoken communication and trust between them. They often perform identical choreography which blurs and redefines the physical difference between them. Suddenly they mirror one another, before spinning in and out of one another’s orbit like celestial objects held and repulsed by tenderly violent gravitational forces. The imagery of the circle, the void and the space around and between pulses through the work.

The quality of the performance and the fluid, expansive, grounded-yet-weightless choreography is elevated by the immaculately-constructed sound score of original music by Gyda Valtysdottir, Alex Forster, Azizi Cole, Xhosa Cole, Shahzad Ismaily, which is tribal yet urban, strange and yet naggingly-familiar: found sounds and rhythms drive and slow the work as the dancers respond and explore the unheard rhythms within the rhythms.

Horne Horneman’s clever and immersive lighting design adds layers of interest and intrigue, bringing in closely-controlled darkness, soft floods, throbs of light and moments of intensity that pulls the dancers together and isolates them, slipping them from sharp focus to obscurity.

Sound, light, darkness and the intense focus of Cole and Robert creates an experience that is intriguing and immersive, highly evocative, excitingly strange and achingly familiar. Time slows and buzzes and the circle – the zero, the void – shifts and shimmers softly and thrillingly.

Reviewed on 18th April 2018 | Image: Contributed

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The North West team is under the editorship of John Roberts. 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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