Puzzle Creature – The Place, London

Creators: Neon Dance

Reviewer:  Richard Maguire

Puzzle Creature, or, perhaps, Adventures in and out of a Polytunnel, is an ambitious project by dance company Neon Dance that doesn’t quite find its feet.

Arriving at The Place, we are asked to leave our shoes and coats in the bar. The publicity for the show suggests that we will share the same space as the dancers, leading to some speculation that we, too, will dance. However, once we are led into a vast polythene dome, accommodating about 40 people, our roles are quickly realised as passive ones. We sit and watch three dancers who interact with mesh prosthetics, which hang down from the ceiling on silver threads. Reciting the words ‘We have decided not to die’, the dancers pull down these artificial limbs and masks, adjusting them to their own bodies’ contours.

After 30 minutes of these unexplained contortions, we are ushered, with relief, out of the stifling dome to stand and watch it slowly deflate. To Sebastian Reynolds’s bleak music, the dancers stride across the top of the dome pushing out its air until what is left is a huge pillow of inflated polythene. We can then go and retrieve our shoes.

For those who stayed for the after-show talk, Puzzle Creature seemed less of an enigma. The show is a response to the work of Japanese artist Arakawa and American architect and poet Madeline Gins. In 2010 the two set up the Reversible Destiny Foundation, which seeks to increase people’s life spans through architecture. The creative team from Neon Dance led by Adrienne Hart went to one of the Foundation’s completed buildings in Japan, the Reversible Destiny Lofts – Mitaka (In Memory of Helen Keller), and here they began their work on Puzzle Creature, a dance show that promotes the non-normative body.

However, the methodology is more interesting than the finished project, and for many long minutes, in and outside of the tunnel, nothing much happens. Although it’s worth sticking it out until the end as eventually, the billowing polythene resembles an ethereal landscape with brilliant light and shadow, and Reynolds’s music warms significantly. Patiently the dancers create valleys out of the foaming plastic to walk towards death, or, perhaps, to collect their own shoes that lay in the world beyond.

Reviewed on 12 October 2018 | Image: Contributed

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