As part of The Civic’s yearlong fifth birthday celebrations, Barnsley born and award-winning choreographer Gary Clarke is one of the many local artists to be showcased there this year. This week he brought his unique Professional Development Dance Project, Lustrum onto home turf for the first time. And what a show it was!
Now in its fourth year, Lustrum brings together fifteen regional, national and international dance artists and five musicians to create, devise and professionally showcase five new works in just five days. Here, hierarchy, theory and rules are all thrown out of the window. This collaborative project, is driven by creative artistic instinct and quick-fire choices, where professional dancers work alongside students, constantly moving between the roles of choreographer and performer throughout the five days.
Here, Gary Clarke takes a backseat, acting as facilitator for the fifteen. Each work is created in just five hours, ‘beginning with nothing and finishing with everything’, states Gary. The five performances consist of a solo, duet, trio, quartet and a quintet, with performers selected by raffle. The remaining dancers become the choreographers, and in doing so, the whole group becomes social and democratic dance Guinea pigs.
Lustrum is as much for the dancers, choreographers and artists as it is the audience. It is a learning and often life-changing experience. It is as much about the process as it is the outcome. The outcome is called Lustrum: Aftermath and that is what the audience was there to witness. Gary warned in his introduction, that it was an experiment, and that it might be good, it might be bad. I was excited.
Before the ‘Aftermath’ we were treated to an improvised piece using all fifteen performers, which took place in the theatre. This was split up into three parts. During the first, the performers moved independently, during the second they performed in their Lustrum groups; solo, duet, trio etc, and in the third they were all (arms) chained together, forced to move independently, yet literally often being held back. This was exciting to so see and a real taster of what was to potentially come next.
Now, I admit that I know nothing about dance, and I wouldn’t normally go watch dance either (though I’ve seen a couple of Matthew Bourne shows). Luckily for me though, Lustrum proved in ways that I didn’t need to be in the know. It is all down to instinct. In ways, it is hard to me describe what I saw – am I meant to refer to specific types of dance or moves? Who the hell knows? As each piece was performed I wrote down random words and the references points that came to me. I’ll share those. Hopefully, that might in some way describe the performances.
Aftermath took place in the gallery space in The Civic, in amongst their new exhibition, Transience. The solo piece from Monday was titled ‘Wigwag’. Performed by Bartek Woszczynski along to Flight of the Valkyries by Wagner, he straddled a plain wooden chair, surrounded by the audience, on their feet. He wore a robe and a paper crown that reminded me of Basquiat or Anton Corbijn’s video for Enjoy the Silence. The performance seemed to tell the story of paranoid price or a mad king. The movements and contortions came across like Bowie as John Merrick or a little Olivier as Richard III. A great start.
Tuesday’s duet, was titled ‘Blue’ and was performed by Claudia Palazzo and Charlotte Bentley, with a live score from Huw Williams, which was an unearthly, but sometimes ambient drone, reminiscent of Brian Eno. One of the dancers was dressed like some 30s detective, but the other like a greek goddess – though oddly also like Siobhan Fahey in that Shakespears Sister video Stay. Both fought like lovers falling apart, and often literally falling. Images from Hitchcock’s Vertigo and Ingmar Bergman’s Seventh Seal came to mind.
Wednesday’s trio was titled ‘Underland’ and was performed by Laura Amy White, Bartek Woszczynski and Lyndsey Hunt, backed by the local alternative rock band, Everyone An Army. The dancers were dressed like new ravers or NYC club kids. Musically, the band played like Explosions In The Sky, and the dancers moved like it was 3am, their house party had died and though tired and everybody gone, they were desperately trying to keep it going.
The Thursday quartet was called ‘Hello Julie, Goodbye Tony’ and was performed by Charlotte Armitage, Ashley Berry, Charlotte Bentley and Sianna Bruce. Performing along to the soundtrack of Madmen, dressed like characters from Stepford Wives or the deranged women from Edward Scissorhands, the four of them knelt on the floor and danced like synchronised swimmers. Their kitchen utensil hair accessories reminded me of a Richard Hamilton collage. It all felt like some ritual that wouldn’t be out-of-place on Twin Peaks or American Horror Story.
The final piece was Friday’s quintet who performed ‘5’, backed by a live score from David Somlo, who followed dancers Connor Quill, Giulia Montalbano, Crystal Zillwood, Annika Dorr and Lyndsey Hunt around with his guitar, loop pedals and amp strapped to his self. The five were dressed as Christ, the Virgin, an angel, a shepherd and a reindeer!? In the back ground hung a version of the immaculate conception by The Civic’s current exhibiting artist, which may or may not have provided site based inspiration. This piece was funny and reminded me of a Paul McCarthy installation.
I cannot describe how much I enjoyed Lustrum: Aftermath and really wish I’d have been able to see some of the preparation that went into the five works. However, the ‘aftermath’ is a real treat – even for someone who couldn’t care less about dance. It was exciting, funny, unsettling, interesting, intense, intelligent and entertaining, all the things that damn good art should be. Credit to all involved. I’d not stopped thinking about it all the following day.
A Q&A session followed that allowed both audience and performers to ask each other questions and to share their thoughts and opinions.
If ever you get the chance to see it, do so. Not that it will represent what I saw in the slightest. What you will see though totally captivating and like nothing else you’ve seen before.
A massive thanks to the brilliant Joe at Boneshaker for the amazing images of Lustrum. Find Boneshaker over at boneshaker.uk.com/photography and follow him on facebook here facebook.com/BoneShakerPhotography
Follow The Civic here and here.
Follow Garry Clarke over at @GaryClarkeUK and get his website over at garyclarkeuk.com