Charlotte Kasner is at The Print Room at the Coronet, London
February 26, 2016
Terra is the final part of Hubert Essakow’s trilogy of the elements for the Print Room Dance Company and is taking place in the new Print Room venue, a former Victorian playhouse and partially restored Grade II listed building that, after a couple of decades as a theatre, became a cinema, before narrowly escaping being turned into a fast food joint.
It’s slightly dusty atmosphere and the subdued, red lighting seemed fitting for Lachaert and d’Hanis’ peculiar set. It seems that the dancers are living an odd, troglodyte existence in the cave-like setting as if they had survived some latter day Pompeian eruption with everything covered in pumice. Off-white costumes blend with the gypsum-coloured set which has the remains of a living room entombed in the rock. A crooked standard lamp leans precariously between two upended sofas, melded into the rock, a crazy reminder of a previous normality.
The floor is wired for sound so that every footfall and every breath resounds and echoes. Dancers appear with suitcases as if they had salvaged all their worldly goods when the earth displayed its power to fold and crumble and throw all into chaos, their journey finally ending on the inside of what had appeared to be terra firma.
Dancers stretch yearningly but cannot escape their confines. Turns seem to fix them even closer to the ground. Jumps are constrained. Pas de deux cement their re-formed relationships. Yet they seem to make the best of their lives in their new surroundings in spite of the presence of an evil child who skittered in and out of the adults. Was she some kind of subterranean sprite that held them spellbound inside the earth? They pick her up and try to cast her aside but she sits upstage, blocking their exit.
Unlike the previous work Ignis, the poetry is recorded. The intimacy afforded by the previous venue with the audience on all sides and the actors reciting poetry onstage suggested a crucible that incubated fire. This setting leaves the audience and the poem detached, an echo of the old, external world from which the dancers have been excluded.
Undoubtedly, the most successful element of Terra is Jean-Michel Bernard’s evocative score. It has elements of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Symphonia Antartica. The music seems to drip through the rocks forming stalactites of sound that grow around the moving bodies.
At about an hour, Terra feels overlong and lacks choreographic passion. There is little variety and no chance to engage emotionally with the dancers.
It would be interesting however see the trilogy in its entirety which may well show this final part in a different light.
Terra runs to March 12. For tickets visit www.the-print-room.org or call 020 3642 6606.