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August 27, 2013 5:28 pm
Siobhan Davies Dance has been touring Rotor, a collection of dance, sound and art, since 2010, and in each location the work is reconfigured to suit the venue. At the Roundhouse – a circular performance space that was once a Victorian railway shed – the choreographer is responding to Conrad Shawcross’s new installation, “Timepiece”. It’s a huge sculpture suspended from the roof, with three articulated arms representing hours, minutes and seconds. At the end of each arm, a bright lightbulb acts as a roving eye, circulating like a remote-controlled space probe. There’s a feeling of being watched, enhanced by the soft whirr of the moving arms and the shadows they cast across the dark room.
Beneath the “clock”, a smooth gnomon rises from the ground, an anchor for the first two pieces which both explore our responses to time. In Live Feed, described as a short play by E.V. Crowe, four performers walk in a line – like a clock hand – around the gnomon, bantering about how to maintain the movement. As arms swing and feet synchronise, words such as “drift”, “natural” and “stop counting!” pop out, often creating an amusing counterpoint. (A recording might work even better, as a soundtrack of inner thoughts.)
Davies develops the clock hand idea much further in Series of Appointments, a fascinating study of movement. From the mesmeric rhythm of the circling dancers, she introduces new tempos, shapes and dynamics – walking backwards in an awkward rewind, running, panting, going out on a limb before returning to the group. There’s an almost academic pleasure in watching the shifting patterns of the dancers, who play their parts exactly, like pieces in a clock. Only occasionally do they stray into “playground” territory, with excited grins and glances that detract from the neutral purity. Otherwise it’s a beautifully simple idea with thought-provoking depth. Just as Shawcross’s installation deconstructs the mechanics of time, Davies exposes the bare bones of choreography.
The same performers then take up their places behind music stands for Matteo Fargion’s Songbook, a contemporary music piece with backing group-style choreography. Its intricate sung/spoken score conjures cities, commuters, performers, birds and French people, like a zany, postmodern overture to an American musical. With movement limited, it didn’t link with the site in the same way as the first two pieces. But the final mouth organ refrain was perhaps a musical reminder of those steam engines that used to turn round on this very spot.
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