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If We Go On

By Luke Jennings

The Observer, 29 November 2009

“No more dancing!” screams Patrycja Kujawska in Vincent Dance Theatre’s If We Go On. “No more classical music – especially Bach! No more clichés. No more shapes in space.” Her rant clearly references Yvonne Rainer’s much-quoted No Manifesto of 1965, which begins: “No to spectacle no to virtuosity no to transformations and magic and make-believe…” If the American minimalist choreographer was attempting to lay the foundations of postmodern dance, however, Charlotte Vincent’s latest work suggests that, half a century later, that structure is exhausted.

As Alex Catona plays an intense cello passage, Janusz Orlik attempts to execute a dance sequence, giving up after repeated attempts because his activity “isn’t real”. Catona’s resigned reaction suggests that this frustration is endemic: that all of the seven-strong cast have been defeated by the intrinsic inauthenticity of theatrical performance. “I’ve never worked with people I really admire,” a crumpled-looking Aurora Lubos sadly declaims, before showing us a vaporous dance suggesting Pina Bausch at her most nostalgic.

Carly Best, meanwhile, judders and twists as if animated by some rogue kinetic current, her gaze disconnected and her movements feral and jagged. She goes on, you realise, because she knows no course of action other than to go on. This is perhaps the most brutally nihilist work Vincent has yet offered us. She asks and offers no quarter, and two dancers found themselves unable to complete the process of making the piece. But If We Go On has what Confluence lacks: a crackling intellectual core. It may be bleak, but it’s the real thing.