Locked Down. Locked In. But Living.

MIKE DIXON reviews three new works made for camera by Jordan James Bridge, Daniel De Andrade and Gary Clarke

Studio Wayne McGregor
Northern Ballet
Gary Clarke Company
Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield

Filmed in the empty spaces of the Lawrence Batley Theatre in Huddersfield, each ballet of the triple bill, produced by David Bewick and filmed by Pedro Labanca, employs the building as a connecting motif. Locked Down, choreographed by Jordan James Bridge of Studio Wayne McGregor, opens with Izzak Carroll, a tattooed, epicene figure in a red pool of light. With painted nails, close-cropped hair and white singlet and underpants, he vogues on the spot, before executing sensual, gender-non-specific movements: crouching, stretching and arching on the floor with some added gymnastic elements. The solo looks like an inspired improvisation to the powerful percussive score of Is it Cold in the Water? by Sophie. The soloist, now clad in ivory trousers, performs a new vocabulary of long sweeping arms, free gestures, high stretched legs and small jumps to Klass by Tom Ashbrook, outside in daylight. Carroll’s performance in both locales is intense, and brilliantly edited by Pedro Labanca.

Locked In by Daniel De Andrade opens with Sarah Chun and Matthew Topliss emerging from the classical portico of the theatre wearing grey jeans and black T-shirts. Chun revolves elegantly in classical steps while Topliss arabesques against a stone column. They are joined by Sean Bates and Mlindi Kulashe wearing white shirts and black trousers. The three men perform in unison while Chun dances in counterpoint. In a skilful piece of editing, two mirror versions of the central quartet appear on each side, with apparently 12 dancers filling the frame. Topliss, in a role which emphasises his potent physical presence, lifts Chun in high travelling lifts as the eight peripheral doppelgangers observe in repose. As the music changes the vocabulary features generous movements of the arms, turning steps and small jumps before they enter the

gloom of the building, descending through staircases and halls, travelling in reverse, through the wizardry of David Bewick’s editing. 

The screen turns to black and white to the music of Arvo Pärt’s Fratres. Bates appears from under a sheet on the main stage, now dressed in a dappled blue leotard, for an elegant anguished variation, employing his long limbs expressively. He is followed by the others in their own solos: Topliss executing some impressive body ripples; Kulashe, agitated and urgent; Chun bourréeing exquisitely on pointe, with a short dark skirt a feminine addition to her costume. Bates and Kulashe dance together, with the recurring feature of Bates pulling his partner along the floor. Chun soars in high lifts. Harmony and balance reign and choreographic motifs are repeated. Finally, as colour returns to the screen, the foursome face the deserted auditorium and raise their arms in salute. Rose petals float upwards as the dancers exit through windows at the back of the stage. 

But Living, choreographed by Gary Clarke, features no recognisable dance steps, but is a German Expressionist nightmare in black and white, with Gavin Coward as a seedy and somnambulistic ‘Alice’ figure in a take on Alice Through the Looking Glass. The Rabbit (Gary Hartley Farrar) makes occasional appearances in a film featuring silent movie dialogue cards and the full regalia of grainy effects. Coward runs around his living room, sits in various chairs, counts coins from a jar, climbs a ladder, presses his hands against a window and runs up and down stairs. The general effect is phantasmagorical but not choreographic. The atmospheric music is Nigel Clarke’s Dial H for Hitchcock, brilliantly played by the Grimethorpe Colliery Band.