Choreography: Victoria Fox
Reviewer: Peter Jacobs
Victoria Fox Markiewicz is quickly building a reputation as a choreographer with her new company TRIBE//, following a long and successful career as a dancer, notably with Jasmin Vardimon and CanDoCo.
The company’s debut work Still I Rise sees a female company of five dancers – Lucija Bozicievic, Caterina Grosoli, Kassichana Okene-Jameson, Yukiko Masui and Finetta Mikolajska – explore ideas of empowerment, resilience and hope in a sixty-five-minute work of impressive range, passion and ambition. That the title and programme notes reference the ‘resilient, unapologetic nature’ of Maya Angelou’s poem of almost the same shorthands some culturally-resonant and familiar framework on to the piece but is slightly misleading to anyone expecting anything more biographically or specifically-relevant.
The piece opens with an effectively-slow section that appears to delineate the history of women in society and their occasional but rarely-owned power bestowed through beauty or status, contrasted softly with generations of obedience, servitude and disempowerment. This progressively explodes into a unifying exposition of finely-modulated anger, defiance and the still-ongoing struggle to achieve agency, independence and visibility, which provides a growing sense of pleasure at Fox’s choreographic style that appears to be influenced by the Gaga choreographic methodology of Ohad Naharin and steeps the distinctive choreographic styles of makers such as Hofesh Shechter and Sharon Eyal. This is a very good thing.
The long central sections of the piece are slower and more meditative before the work rebuilds to reconnect thrillingly with the strength and boldness of the earlier section. Still I Rise manages not to fall into some kind of audience-pleasing demonstration of ‘girl power’ but is a considered and layered exploration of women’s universality, strength, tenderness, sensitivity, fortitude and resilience, kept simmering with a controlled emotional power that unifies the work from beginning to end.
Devised with the five dancers, the work is elevated by a beautifully-curated soundtrack of cinematic classical music, arias and electronica which gives the work an emotive sense of intensity and freshness, sometimes excitement – sound design by Wojciech Markiewicz and Victoria Fox – and an impressively-ambitious and textural lighting design by Mike Bignell, which makes full use of haze and finely-modulated lighting to paint a series of timeless images: darkness and light reinforcing the overall message of historical legacy, spirit, hope and defiance.
Still I Rise is an impressive-looking production performed by five charismatic and diverse young women, with a consistency of conception and a clear choreographic voice that will surely become even clearer and louder over time. Like the seemingly-few other emerging companies – DeNada Dance Company and Humanhood come to mind – TRIBE// already has a distinctive look and confidence that inspires hope that there is a strong future for UK-based dance if we can ever get through dark times.
Reviewed 19 November 2019 | Image: Contributed