Humanhood play with space and time

Lilian Baylis Studio Theatre at Sadler’s Wells, London
May 24, 2018

David Mead

I didn’t “dive into a meditative and alternate state” as the programme for Humanhood’s appearance on Sadler’s Wells’ Wild Card season put it, but there was still much to admire in another programme that proves yet again what an awful lot of quality dance comes out of Birmingham these days.

First, in the theatre with the audience mostly sat on the floor around a circular black, sparkly carpet inhabited by Jill Goh, Connor Scott and Noa Genazzano. In Universe, which in February 2019 will form part of Torus, the company’s first ensemble work, the trio gently roll around the space, occasionally coming in moments of unison. All this provides bags of inspiration for artist Mark Howard, who creates abstract representations of their forms on a long white sheet as the dance unfolded. Rather good he is too.

Howard’s creations certainly brought out the circularity and human form of the dance. I could easily imagine those drawings going on to inspire new dance, thus completing a creative circle. While initially pleasing, and as good and smooth as the dancers are, it has to be said that the dance would struggle by itself to hold the interest. The ‘new age’ soundscape does not help any. But then this is a piece very much about the ‘whole’ and it left me keen to see how it slots into that forthcoming larger work.

New dx Associate Artists Rudi Cole and Júlia Robert Parés of Humanhood in ZeroPhoto Donata Kukyte
Rudi Cole and Júlia Robert Parés in Zero
Photo Donata Kukyte

After 20 minutes or so, the audience were invited to return to the café-bar, not for any regular intermission but for a cello recital by Icelandic musician Gyða Valtysdottir. Apparently untitled, and I suspect part-improvised, her music featured a lot of strange, haunting sounds that first created a landscape in the mind, and then echoed around it. It was quite beautiful. Everyone was rapt as Valtysdottir quite literally played the whole instrument, including the lower bout and its edgework with her bow. It was just a shame someone forgot to turn off the wall-mounted television behind her that was showing something apparently totally unconnected.

For part three it was back to the theatre (for some reason via a roundabout route that had us enter stage right and then walk around the back of stage) where the seats were now in their regular tiered formation. Rounding off the evening was a section from ZERO, a duet for Humanhood artistic directors Rudi Cole and Júlia Robert Parés. With the circular mat was replaced with a circle of white chalk dust and a bit of stage fog, there is a sense of the couple playing with time. In unison they are absolutely as one, before, out of nowhere, they mirror, attract and repel one another. The quality of the dancing was again right on the button, the mood enhanced by excellent lighting by Horne Horneman and musical selections from Valtysdottir, Alex Forster, Azizi Cole, Xhosa Cole and Shahzad Ismaily.

All told, an excellent and more than interesting evening that left one wanting more.