Precious Metal and Night Wandering – Project Arts Centre, Dublin

Choreographers: John Scott and Merce Cunningham
Reviewer: Clara Mallon

John Scott’s Irish Modern Dance Theatre comes to the Project Arts Centre Temple Bar. Presenting us with an intriguing double bill; Precious Metal and Night Wandering, the performances run as part of Project 50, a season of work celebrating 50 years of the Project Arts Centre.

This double bill marks the world premiere of Scott’s Precious Metal, the Irish premiere of Merce Cunningham’s Night Wandering, and commemorates 25 years of Irish Modern Dance Theatre; there is an air of celebration attached to this performance.

Both performances contrast stylistically and thematically and combine to offer audiences a diverse night of modern dance. While Cunningham’s short piece depicts a fractured yet nostalgic connection between two individuals, the four performers of Scott’s Precious Metal present a raw, highly physical and at times playful choreography.

Originally created by the world-renowned dancer and choreographer Cunningham in 1958, Night Wandering is a piece of its time. The stage set is sparse and cold as Julie Cunningham and Kevin Coquelard enter the space. The attire of dark orange nylon and brown fur contrasts with the setting as they convey a tale of distorted love. Aided by sporadic bursts of music composed by Bo Nilsson, the pair moves in unison in tender moments of closeness yet separates in more agitated individualistic instances. The duo’s connection is represented as twofold, supportive and affectionate yet restrictive and controlling.

Precious Metal takes us on a multicultural, bilingual contemplation of contemporary life. Using choral texts from Sophocles’ Antigone, ritualistic chants, angry rants, song, sparkling shirts, microphones and heaps of highly physical movement, Scott’s piece covers a lot of ground.

The performance is meta-theatrical in part, occasionally feeling like we are glimpsing into the rehearsal space. Florence Welalo takes the mic asserting “Old stars, they follow you wherever you go… precious metal, gold, silver, bronze it opens your spirits”. Outside this contemplation, ideas of precious metals are explored in a more abstract way. Scott’s choreography allows for moments of jerky aggressive gesture to merge into more serene moments of stillness, physicalising concepts of softness, hardness, rigidity and relaxation. At times performers seem to depict the gathering of ions that cannot connect.

By the end, the question of what attracts humankind to precious metals goes largely unanswered, and maybe this is the point. However, without more solid conceptualisation, the ambiguity of the piece verges on disinterest. Kevin Coquelard, Ryan O’Neill, Mufutau Yusuf and Florence Welalo work well as a visually interesting ensemble who commendably hold high energy for the performance duration.

Runs until 10 December 2016 | Image: Contributed

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