Reviewer: Anna Pearce
The rhythmic, musical, unison movement performed by Rubberband’s five dancers in the opening of ‘Gravity of Center’ very much sets up what is to come. They creep and shift throughout the stage as a tight unit, gazing intensly out beyond the audience, and in one moment, Daniel Mayo plunges off the edge of the stage, to be hauled back by the others.
The dim lighting, smoky haze, earnest faces and intent of movement all contribute to the stage at the Purcell Room feeling saturated with drama which borders on overkill. Relationships within the quintet begin to be established, but are never absolutely clear. Jasper Gahunia’s score is a triumph; beginning with soft classical strings and building to more electronic, bass fueled, ever-changing rhythms that drive the movement content. And what incredible movement content it is. Victor Quijada has truly suceeded in creating a hybrid movement language of “the spontaneity, fearlessness and risk-taking of his younger years in hip-hop culture and the refinement and choreographic maturity of the ballet and contemporary works he immersed himself in as a professional dancer”. The cast of five are masters of their craft and execute the dynamic, spiraling, ruggedly beautiful movement vocabulary with effortless skill.
There is evidently a narrative that begins to build around relationships that form, although the details and intention of this are never fully apparent. There are suggestions of tenderness, gradually increasing violence and moments of macho altercation. Having been drawn in and impressed from the off, as the piece continues, one wonders if things may have peaked too soon: there is a sense of a feature length ballet about this work, with constant action but little shift in movement quality, and movement that is ‘acted’. There are so many moments where the performers’ earnest faces appear desperate to speak, or to communicate something, but they remain dumbstruck, and whatever it was remains unsaid. Sudden moments of silence and two complete blackouts suggest a change or a shift will happen, but the work continues in its established vein.
What keeps the attention is the incredible physicality of the performers, notably Anne Plamondon’s extraordinarily articulating legs and feet. Key actions are revisited a number of times as Quijada’s movement language is further established, and any number of the different duet combinations could have stood alone as individual pieces.
‘Gravity of Center’ is so rich in content that it’s simultaneously overwhelming and diluted. Having seen Quijada’s recent work for Scottish Dance Theatre, this was surprising as ‘Second Coming’ for SDT was so rooted in concept with movement content working harmoniously out of this.
The closing sequences of ‘Gravity of Center’ begin to feel more satisfying as there’s more dynamic change, and the space is sculpted by UV lighting and a solitary bulb which references the opening of the work becoming a pulsating floodlight which the dancers are drawn mothlike towards. Such stimulating images, the root of which still remains unclear.