Demanding attention: Joss Arnott Dance

Laban Theatre, London
March 1, 2018

Maria Salwińska

This was an evening was filled with athletic movement, a celebration of female strength and capacity of the dancers’ bodies. All three works are based on his characteristic incessant movement, but touch upon different themes and ideas in collaboration with the dancers

Joss Arnott Dance is a relatively young company, established in 2010, steadily building a reputation for strong contemporary work. Arnott, who studied at London Studio Centre and Trinity Laban, admits his preferences for technical training, which can be seen in a carefully selected team of dancers.

The opening A Movement in 3 focuses on the connection between motion and music, as well as the influence of light on dancers. Dimmed ambience, monotonous sound by composer Quinta and continuous movement put the viewer in a sort of trance. The light interestingly indicates the pathways for three performers as they appear and disappear from the stage. With a few moments of pause and deceleration, the linear choreography, based on the technical capabilities of the dancers’ bodies, finishes as unexpectedly as it begins. It leaves the audience with a sense of continuity, yet uncertainty, enhancing the enigmatic smiles on the dancers’ faces.

Emilie Pottage of Joss Arnott DancePhoto Brian Slater
Emilie Karlsen of Joss Arnott Dance
Photo Brian Slater

V is a solo that explores the relationship between the dancer Emily Pottage, and live musician, Fra Rustumji on viola, and that reveals the unity of the two art forms, which equally exist so individually at the same time. That Arnott has choreographed the moves for the violist, and both women exchange visual contact, differentiating distance and relationship to each other, provokes reflection on the power of influence. The contemporary, non-harmonic sound by James Keane, irregular lighting design, and dance that connects flexible smooth motion with sharp, angular accents, intrigues the viewer and requires attention. The sparse black costume of Pottage suggests her attitude to the body as an instrument with which she transmits visible pure movement and communicates with the music.

The night closed with Rush, a devotion to the women’s force and the dancers’ strength that allows beautiful and powerful choreography to emerge. Five females, forming groups as well as dancing solos or close duets, show strong characters, yet also suggesting past harms and painful memories. They watch each other as if judging an opponent and that then gives a picture of the integrity of the herd. Physically demanding, dynamic movement and gestures with fists contrast with the dancers’ airy colourful dresses, which may symbolize the fragility of a woman that prevails in some human minds. Arnott also employs hyperextensions, strong floor work and challenging balances.

Intriguing, electronic sound from violin and percussion intensifies the frenzy on stage and drags the viewer further into the performance. Clever use of spotlights exposes the dancers to a full view of the audience, but shadows between the lights allows a hint of mystery. There is no time for longer breath or relaxation. Expression in movement and gaze, as well as devotion to the moment was impressive and indicates the potential of these young dancers. Norwegian dancer Emilie Karlsen was particularly eye-catching.

Overall Arnott’s triple bill further demonstrates his prospering development. I am encouraged to see his next choreographies.