Nora invites Deborah Hay: Where Home Is  – Sadler’s Wells, London

Chorographer/Director: Deborah Hay

Reviewer: Sophia Moss

There is absolute silence in the studio, broken only by the occasional cough, tap of a foot or rustle of paper, as a dancer stands before us, one foot in front of the other, and stares. The other two dancers linger in the back, gazing at the black wall. No one moves, no one speaks, and the silence is thick and painful. Some of us may be wondering: “have they forgotten the routine? How long must we sit here before we can leave?” But, eventually, one of the dancers walks across the stage and they launch into a series of seemingly unconnected routines.

Where Home Is feels like watching an improv class: the dancers move about the stage, sometimes doing split jumps and lunges but often just walking about, crawling on the floor or doing robotic isolations. There doesn’t seem to be a ‘routine’ as such and there is no story or obvious connection between the movements. Choreographer Deborah Hay, who has five decades of experience, “likes to create things which are disorientating and unlike what you would expect to see”. She certainly succeeded in that respect.

While the dancers mostly performance in uncomfortable silence, the three performers do at one point sing a Celtic-style acapella song with beautiful harmonies and impressive vocal ranges. Later, an old-fashioned song called Don’t Fence Me Inplays in the background as the dancers move around the stage. The music is a much-welcomed relief from the heavy silence, but it is over too quickly.

The stage is completely bare apart from two blue ruler-style lines on either side of the sage floor. The lighting is mostly kept on, so the performers can see the audience and the audience can see each other. Where Home Is has started before the audience enters the studio (the dancers move in their own little worlds as we file in) and ends rather abruptly with no real build up or climax. This is probably done on purpose, to explore time, space and different ways to unsettle people, but it comes across as half baked.

Some members of the audience may praise the supposed existential themes of this show, but others will simply feel like they’re missing something massive, because all they saw were people stand still for way too long and float around the stage without doing many memorable sequences. Most of the movements look like things the audience could try at home. This is an avant-garde show which doesn’t look like anything most of the audience will have seen before, but some of them would prefer not to see it again.

Reviewed 25 April 2019 | Image: Contributed

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