Deutscher Brunswick Street,



review: eyeline 17 summer 1991

To write about the temporal is difficult. To speak of dance, the soul thinking the body, is to use a language often ill-fitted to it. One encounters perhaps, some of the same problems of choreography as the performers themselves. To seek an understanding of No Hope, No Reason, Jude Walton's recent performance is, Walton herself reminds us, to do so with love. For love is curiosity, the want to know. And to understand, one has to look with love.

This work is not solely a dance piece: Jude Walton's work, here as always, is a blending of many practices but a blending which always has the sense that "all ideas rise like music from the physical". (Guy Davenport, Ecologues).

Dance/movement, complex slide projections (here in collaboration with Ian de Gruchy) and music/text (the texts of John Barbour being set to music by Hartley Newnham) are spun together. This formal compilation, this structural layering, correlates directly to the ideas offered up by Walton. It is a work of the contradictious contrariness of love, of its necessary but incongruous presence in the bleak, cold world in which we live. This is the story of love within the story of the city; the one creating the other infinitely ... ceaselessly creating variations on the themes.

It is in the opening solo from Shona Innes that this most basic dichotomy between reason and sentiment emerges: feelings blunt our reason, reason blunts our feelings. Love is what melds these paradoxical impulses ... and tears them apart again. It is the ultimate paradox (giving and taking; revealing-concealing; seeking-denying): the equivocal expression of love.

Here, Innes' body dis-locates itself-'splitting' along its central axis, an arm and upper body reach out while hips and feet stick rock solid to the floor, awkwardly; a turning away in, fear, to the dark, while hands seek out the light. A tense and nervous body divided along the chasm between pleasure and pain. Nearly-neurotic gestures, hopelessly ambiguous, duplex in their apparent non-reason, moving in and out of the stark shadows. A sort of chiaroscuro of desire and denial-a dance between the black and the white, where the passion lies. Untrusting gestures in a world of lost trust, where offers of love are taken back. What we have here is communication breakdown; one critically examined by Walton and the dancers through their rigorous use of image work/ideokinesis, as well as by Newnham in his creation of a score coolly denying the troubling message of its libretto.

Barbour's text penetrates the score to form a three-part harmony of voices singing an ironical Renaissance ode to love: "I ... like don't like love not love don't love don't care don't care if I am not you are not interested interested no interest remember don't remember if I do do you know don't know now any more yes more no now I care I don't care about love ..." (Barbour). The broken syntax, the punning punctuation are symptoms of a form of paralalia, particular to lovers.

Blithely ignoring the confusion of the signals they give voice to, these three extraordinary singers in harmony create a single voice. By reaching for such purity of tone, of pitch, their voices meld to one, analogous to the work as a whole.

There is a space between contradictory or harmonious gestures which reflects the resonant traces of the two, creating a third. This third then becomes the essential, the one voice, arrived at through the investigation of space. For it is in space that all three elements seek and find their place: the searching out acoustically, situating the voice; the searching out of the images folding over the walls and floor before settling; the searching out of bodies, of lovers, this slow patterning of many menages a trois, a quatre, a deux, in space. The curiosity to know the spatial limits forms a link-for once again, ft is that curiosity which seeks understanding: love.

The site to which this work is specific (yet unspecified), above Deutscher Brunswick Street, used to be Frank's Stairway to Heaven, a pool hall for the city's destitute. An image of a rainy night curls around the walls, picking up the name in glitter still on the door and we can laugh nervously at the posturings we have taken up in a place like this. Relationships at breaking point, solitary nights without hope, without reason. A place like the performance's own space, of "expectation and desire combined", of a "hoping against hope: clinging to mere possibility'" (Concise Oxford Dictionary (--hope). A place where one can no longer believe in anything, but continues to, regardless.

These dream writings of Barbour's are matched by de Gruchy's projections, dreamlike in their simultaneous intensity and obscurity-walls of raindrops, waterfalls, clouds, roses, layered and overlayed to create a breathless, painful beauty. Piercingly pink roses, in turn pierced by a note so pure it vibrates, resonates and wraps up the wall, sliding over the images, adding yet another. A pitch so unsettling, It has the dual but indivisible effect of the sublime: this is a note of chaos, standing in for the unrepresentable, where there is no reconciliation between feeling and understanding, between hope and reason. This cold city space has been fired up, momentarily: has been sublimated.

Even when we enter the space, we are seated on specialty made wooden crates; objects which suggest the packaged protection of fragile things, things of value, commodities. Objects whose function has been upturned. We sit arranged in a staff-like arc, our bottoms on the symbol of economic rationalisation: the J-curve. For this is the hopeless/hopeful, reasonless/over-reasoning space of the contemporary city. The work ends with a complex choreographed run up the stairs-feet running in the Underground-where all line up singing "it isn't enough, it isn't enough".

"The memorable is that which can be dreamed about a place". (Michel de Gerteau), Oneric images, images of memory are captured on film - our space is shifted outside to the tops of trees speeding by, viewed from a child's backseat in a car; to a boat bobbing upside-down, stranded the film's topsy-turvyness re-emphasising our isolation on the waters. Up comes, the boat again, right side up, caught by Walton in an extraordinarily evocative image. By reflecting the boat-image into a mirrored pool of water, it continues to bob, until Walton as performer comes and makes it ripple, then splashes the water and the boat implodes. We are shattered by the casual gesture of a hand idly playing.

Shattered because we're more than just looking on. Through the integrality and the resonant linking of music, image and movement, Walton and her colleagues draw us into this beautiful vortex. We fall into it as one of the dancers earlier falls-in a fall constant and apparently never-ending: from what? from grace? from the exhaustion of romantic games? from love? The text, these words uttered are a defence against the fall into love. The image of the fall works through the body in an endless, almost seamless expression of our struggle against the seduction of the abyss. "I fall therefore a chasm opens up beneath my feet. I am falling endlessly and therefore the chasm is bottomless". (Bachelard, The Imaginary Falo

This work is of the sublime, and I don't use the word without caution. For it is a dual notion, the sublime. This one, this symbolic whole, is a one made up of two, is the sensation of the sublime, confounding by its duality: this work is cleverly seductive, beautiful but more than that--we have pain with our pleasure. At the end of the piece, where the images again grow cold, steel girders, black, white and grey, speak of the desolation that is the city, the despair that.is the human, and of the perverse optimism that is love.


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