by Winchester Guide editor Donald Hutera
mapdance, the University of Chichester’s MA touring company, is celebrating its tenth birthday with a richly mixed bill of works old and new by a gratifying range of choreographers. This enticingly varied programme lands at Theatre Royal Winchester on Feb 10 at 7.30pm.
About the company
The name mapdance is derived from the fact that company members are enrolled at the University of Chichester in an MA in performance studies. All are chosen via audition by co-directors Yael Flexer and Detta Howe. The company runs from September till June. From June to November the dancers independently research and prepare the dissertations which complete their individual MAs.
In terms of choosing choreographers, Howe and Flexer usually have a wish-list of people and ideas which they believe will provide the dancers (a baker’s dozen this year) with both practical experience and aesthetic rewards. ‘We also try to think about a diverse and complete show,’ says Howe. Typically this entails ‘a mix of theatre, movement-based and abstract work. We usually try to work with someone who’s established, someone new and someone international, and remount a previously seen piece.’
About the work
Eminent British choreographer Richard Alston’s rehearsal director and associate choreographer Martin Lawrance has re-staged the former’s renowned Roughcut for mapdance. Premiered by Rambert Dance Company in 1990, and revived nearly a decade later by Alston’s own eponymous troupe, the work was initially made to celebrate the energy and exuberance of Rambert’s young dancers. It has now been specially selected to do the same for mapdance’s 10th anniversary cast. The throwaway energy of the movement is anchored by a very specific use of the body’s weight and pull, a physical emphasis that articulates and syncopates the intricate rhythmic impulses of the New York Counterpoint for clarinet by Steve Reich.
Inspired by the sketches, inventions, architecture and artistry of Leonardo da Vinci, and first seen as part of mapdance 2015, Abi Mortimer’s Schemes, Dreams and Machine captures the sensation of time and movement within his paintings and zooms in on the details of individual relationships. As she explains, ‘was based on the cognitive workings of Leonardo as artist, engineer and inventor. The process of learning, coming to light, calculating and adjusting found its way into expressive movement for a timeless community of people who’ve been living the same life and same day for 500-plus years.’ Fresh and full of feeling, Mortimer’s dance is about’ the liveliness of human action and thought caught in Leonardo’s paintings and effectively paused in time. In the last section this great man’s ability to live inside his head, and dream of possibilities beyond the scope of current barriers, is explored with just a little emotional support from Etta James!’
A cacophony and collage of dance, text and music (stretching from Beethoven, Strauss and Bach to a Propellerheads’ 1997 pop classic featuring Dame Shirley Bassey), Liz Aggiss’ History Repeating……completes a mapdance trilogy begun in 2008 with Don’t Put Your Daughter on the Stage and continued in 2014 via Cut with the Kitchen Knife. As Aggiss herself puts it, ‘A troupe of oddball performers is hell-bent on recovering bodies from the library. Inspired by expressive, eccentric or grotesque dance, and British music hall, this performance pays homage to past dance artists of the past, drags them into the present and reflects on the challenges still facing contemporary dance audiences.’ Or, to quote mapdance co-director Detta Howe about Aggiss’ outrageously smart new work, ‘It’s sad, it’s funny and it smacks the audience around the face.’
Kevin (Motionhouse) Finnan describes Passage as ‘a valediction for the Syrian refugees who have attempted to flee the conflict by sea in small boats. It’s a momentous subject, and I don’t know if I have the ability to do justice to such suffering and grief, but I had to try.’ This new work is in two movements. Part one presents as context what has transpired in Syria. Finnan’s creative starting point, however, was Scottish composer James MacMillan’s Miserere – music which forms the dance’s second section, Philip Glass’ resonant Company 1, 2, 4 also features in a piece in which each performer has a large rock which, Finnan says, ‘takes on a range of meanings during the dance. They are beautiful things and very expressive.’
ME AND THEN, according to choreographer Lee Brummer, explores duality via the notion and sensations of a young self in an older self. This new work, which she has created with Israel Aloni,’visits various marks on the timeline of a life, and the hopes and aspirations for a future supported by the past but created by us right now. How powerful are our memories, and can we maintain a youthful spirit inside an ageing body?’
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Running Time: 90 mins (plus interval)