April 25, 2017
Decline is a studiously paced, contemplative exercise, drawn together by the strength of its performers. With improvisation from Sara Bizzoca and Penny Chivas, and live music manipulation from Jer Reid, it manages to avoid the pitfalls that such quieter contemporary pieces are often prey to.
The black Tramway walls and exposed lighting rig enhance Decline’s crisp minimalism. Bizzoca and Chivas start ‘in situ’ as the audience files in, the sound likewise providing a mellow backing track. The ‘beginning’ is announced by the lights filtering down to sweeping triangles. In their white and grey costumes, the dancers begin gently to respond to each other as Reid feeds in. It’s a simplicity and presence that sets the tone for the rest of the performance.
As each dancer moves, their creations reflecting and inspiring the music in either faster and sharper or more tender moments, their personalities appear. Chivas has a strong bearing and hold on the floor and space, her movements considered and direct. Bizzoca is more flighty and rippling, flicking her limbs out into the grey expanse. With so many of these types of performances, communication becomes affectation, relationships rehearsed; it is clear here, however, that Bizzoca and Chivas are following certain rules and cues with each other. Without this, Decline could easily lose what’s at stake.
More key, in many ways, to holding the piece together is Jer Reid’s soundscape itself. Building from swells of sound to loose melodies that weave in and out of Decline, these amplifications, distortions and random responses create an encompassing landscape to contain the work. Roddy’s Simpson’s lighting is also beautifully alive. It shifts from geometric patterns to pulsing colours and warm, desert tones.
As such, Decline is an example of the mind’s creative, generative capabilities, its ability to read into the abstract and find stories or meanings. Some of the music becomes a clock ticking; the yellow smudge on the backdrop is a dripping sun; the dancers’ communication is at once protective, argumentative, and distant.
With any improvised dance, there is always (funnily enough) the danger of doing ‘the same’ thing; the improvising dancer whose eye gazes around her and out of the body as she lets it ‘work’ is often a style or language in itself. Decline remains present enough, and compact enough, however, for the audience to settle in and follow it on its questing journey.