I like a woman who starts describing her creative process with a definition; a dictionary definition nicely sets a frame of reference giving the audience member, the watcher, a starting point. A compass to orientate oneself; to locate and position. Don’t get too comfortable the journey has not yet begun; unless the presence of nudity throws you off balance in which case you’ve probably already stumbled on your way to your seat!
Hide (1) vb to keep out of sight; conceal from view. n a shelter for watching wildlife.
Hide (2) n the skin of an animal.
In Hide award winning choreographer Deborah Light, brings together a cast of three remarkable dance artists Rosalind Brooks, Jo Fong and Eddie Ladd. Design by Neil Davies and sound by Sion Orgon.
They form, transform and reform. We watch. Are they showing themselves? Or are they doing a show?
Hide deals with notions of appearance and disappearance. It delves beneath the outer shell, revealing internal worlds, and exposing the multiplicity of human nature. The performers re-invent themselves through layers of movement, image, sound and text.
Some shows, or performances if you prefer, stay with you because they have a personal resonance; Hide is and will be one such show for me. This is Deborah’s first full length group work as choreographer not a performer. For me it is a sign of creative maturity to work collaboratively with established performers as used to making work themselves.
First time director/choreographers can sometimes fall into the trap of trying to be creatively assertive by retaining a firm unforgiving stance in an attempt to put their own stamp on their creation. And of course we all want to overhear critics we respect utter, in hushed tones, it’s definitely got the signature of X(insert name) on it’. As we become more experienced we realise that the best way to hone that signature is not to creatively make people repetitiously ‘do lines’ by rote a la school punishment; rather it is to facilitate and shape the collective creativity of your collaborators. Isn’t it just as valuable to overhear those same critics say ‘X is a great person to work with; she’s got a real skill as a director/choreographer’. Deborah’s first group show definitively establishes her credentials as a talented choreographer; she has something to say and this lady knows just how to say it. If choreography is a form of mystical alchemy then Ms Light has found her own fairy dust to sprinkle in the right places; in absolutely the right quantities!
Hide brings together established performers with physical and intellectual integrity; when you see performances like these you understand the term movement vocabulary. Bodies can form shapes as a mouth forms words; the costumes play a part in articulating the very personal dialogue as clothing is shed and re-shed (as the limbs slip back into the fabric sheath from which they so recently emerged). Think about the way each of us arms ourselves in preparation for the day; the wardrobe from which we select an appropriate uniform, our battle dress and the medals we accessorise to complete the ensemble.
Chameleon like we shape shift; we merge into the background in that business suit so we look just like everyone else, so we don’t feel conspicuous from our corner of the room position of invisibility. And then there are those days when we feel exposed; naked and vulnerable as exquisitely displayed in Jo Fong. As the audience enter the theatre Jo stands naked on a plinth as she writhes with a face wracked with discomfort; tears could follow but don’t. Concealment through a change of face; of attitude; of perspective, we all find ways to get through our day.
Eddie Ladd performs a very personal story; her words are her words; this is her life, how at one point she adopted the name she is now known by without losing any sense of where she came from culturally. Eddie is a generous collaborator; her commitment to her own work remain consist whilst simultaneously bringing her creative force – the power of which continues to impress me (I will resist hero worshipping here on this occasion) – to every new work she takes part in. Glory reflects from Ms Ladd whether she’s the star of the show or a star in a group show like Hide.
Rosalind Haf Brookes has been central to a couple of the shows I’ve written about – the quirky Private Eye Detective from the Kitch ‘n’ Sync collective and more recently Marega Palser’s Sometimes we look – her physique of a classically ballet dancer articulates her contribution to this conversation with an smooth eloquence. A silence is sometimes what is needed to draw a veil over the uncomfortable pauses in conversation; a sophisticated raised eyebrow accompanied (sadly not on the occasion) by dancing en pointe…
Hide deserves to be seen by a wider audience not only for the quality of the choreography and the perfection of the performance but for every young/not so young person who struggles to find their place and when they find it wrestles with how to inhabit that space. I was left with the phrase hidden in full view rolling round and round in my head …