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Bare Bones, The Lowry

By Jo Beggs

Entertainment Manchester, 10 February 2009

Bare Bones, a touring company based in Birmingham, bring together six dancers (actually five at the Lowry this week due to injury) with four international choreographers to create Bare Bones 6. With just two nights at the Lowry and limited seating it’s one to catch quickly before it rushes off on a pacy tour of fifteen towns from Aberdeen to Jersey.

Packed tightly in the round in the Quays Theatre, this is far from the usual distant dance experience where bodies can become abstract form. At times dancers are just a few feet away, offering a close study of bone and muscle, of sweat and sinew. It’s a celebration of the human form, challenging in its intimacy, often confrontational.

The evening starts with Container in which Portuguese choreographer Rui Horta and the company explore the boundaries of the 9m x 9m square. The practicality of the simple square, designed to tour with relative ease, is exposed as the space is measured by dancer’s bodies, charged across and circled. We are invited to compare the confines of space with the confines of the physical as the dancers compete against each other, testing their endurance.

Second comes Magnification, Garry Stewart’s playful take on the inner workings of the human body. Two dancers move to a brilliant soundtrack of cells growing, bones cracking and muscles stretching. Beautifully timed, often funny and gloriously primal, Magnification plays with the notion of the body beautiful, exposing the anatomical. In moth eaten long-johns, their bodies cracking, jerking, and writhing, timeless and ageless, they become a shameless study of the corporeal.

Straight Talking starts with a solo dancer (Robert Clark) telling the audience what he’s about to do. It’s warm and funny. He parodies the previous piece, tells it straight that he’s about to ‘get beyond the beautiful dance’. What follows, in the confines of a square of light, is a deeply disturbing and dark work as the dancer’s body shuts down, requiring strained and painful effort to make each contorted move. Perhaps the work references muscular disease or those nightmares where the body refuses to respond, whatever the inspirations, we acutely share his frustration as he fights to move. Choreographer Charlotte Vincent and Clark have created a disturbing anti-dance work which exposes the effort behind the illusion of effortlessness.

It somewhat overshadows Hinterland, David Massingham’s work which completes the evening. In an edgy no-mans’ land individuals fight for territory, of the space and of one another, they play, they fight and they love. It has a touch of West Side Story about it, it evokes the school playground. Subdued colours and pools of light create a Renaissance painting effect, echoed by a choral score, but although the work has many moments of beauty it feels somehow disjointed.

Simplicity is the key to the success of this production. It is dance which is about nothing more than dance, about the amazing things dancers do with their bodies. A marvellous celebration of the human.