BWW Reviews: Darkroom Contemporary's BLUEPRINT Offers Alternative Dance for Alternative Audiences
BLUEPRINT is the high profile, alternative new dance project by Darkroom Contemporary, a project being presented under the World Design Capital banner at the Cape Town City Hall. Setting out to connect architecture, design, dance, sound and visual art, BLUEPRINT takes the human body and places it in the midst of that inter-disciplinary melting pot, with Louise Coetzer choreographing a quartet of dances on a sestet of dancers to make up the programme. Eschewing traditional theatrical spatial arrangements, the dances take place in multiple venues on the upper floors of the City Hall, with audience members seated or standing around the performance space. It is clear that Darkroom Contemporary has a driven artistic vision. Consequently BLUEPRINT has clearly defined conceptualisation that aims to stimulate the audience's intellect and aesthetic sensibilities. For the most part, everything holds together, but even when things do not come together completely, the show is never less than completely engaging.
The first piece, danced by Coetzer herself and Anderson Carvalho, is performed (mostly) inside a coiled white installation piece by Imraan Samodien in the first of the four City Hall rooms used in BLUEPRINT. The installation is fascinating, but its dialogue with both the site and the choreography is unclear. With the flow of impulse and response between Coetzer and Carvalho also rather stilted, this is the least satisfying piece in the programme. Nonetheless, Carvalho emerges as one of the most powerful presences in the company with his dynamic performance of Coetzer's mix of linear and circular patterns in this sequence.
The second and third pieces can be viewed in any order, depending on which route one follows from room to room. One of these features two dancers performing against a backdrop of sequences of binary code, while the other saw a trio of dancers moving around a series of rectangular wire sculptures.
The duet is danced by Carvalho and Kristy Brown, both powerful dancers who connected well with one another in the tiniest of the four spaces used, and delivered the choreography with an intensity of purpose and focus that was lacking in the opening piece. Starting and ending on the floor, the piece consists of a series of angular locomotor sequences that progress through balances and lifts. The binary code, animated by Samodien, neatly picks up on the overall theme of BLUEPRINT, a systematic and electronic set of plans, and is cleverly married to the elements of dehumanisation in both Coetzer's choreography and the dancers' performances. Sharing the space less equitably than the concept and its execution, however, are the competing languages of multimedia, setting, lighting and live performance. The projections play mainly across a series of makeshift screens, disconnecting the site from the performance. The lighting on the dancers is less intense than the light that delivers the projections; this places the images in direct competition with the performers for the audience's eye. A better strategy for integration between site, installation and performance in this segment of the show might be to let the images of the code wash over the space itself and Carvalho and Brown's bodies.
The trio, performed by Remo Adonis, Leilah Kirsten and Sherwin Rhode, casts aside the dehumanisation that characterised the first two pieces and explores quite effectively the relationship between the human body and urban environments. With angular white lighting that throws fascinating shadows of the dancers' movements onto the white façade that hides the original architecture of the room in which this piece is performed, the sequence assumes an expressionist quality that is completely compelling. The ensemble work between Adonis, Kirsten and Rhode is seamless, allowing them to execute some thrilling contact choreography.