Black Box Live, Edinburgh Fringe online
August 17, 2021
Shifting atmospheres, moods and emotions are at the heart of this double-bill of just-over quarter hour works by Australian choreographer Lewis Major. In both his new Spaces Between Us, and Satori, there is a sort of energy field, in the first created by the two dancers, and in the second by the light tubes held by the dancers.
Superbly danced by Stefaan Morrow and Sarah Wilson, Spaces Between Us is the more successful of the two. It initially focuses on the physical space that separates them. Standing apart, they move in unison, changing direction, arms reaching out. One sense a distance between them, and it’s hard not to reflect on social distancing and travel restrictions that kept, and in some cases still keep, people apart from friends and loved ones.
The ‘spaces’ of the title has a double meaning, however. Suggestions of love and the difficulties of reconnecting are never far away. When Morrow and Wilson come together, a touch is met with a push away. At first, it’s gentle but becomes increasingly firm.
But they find a way. For a few minutes, problems appear resolved as the dance is smooth and quite balletic, even verging on the romantic, although Wilson wants, or perhaps seems able to give, far more than does Morrow. When she hugs him from behind, he just stares coldly. It seems that those spaces of the title remain, however hard she tries. The end is desperately poignant feels but feels inevitable, a single light flickering and dying, just like their relationship.
In Japanese Zen Buddhism, ‘satori’ refers to awakening in the sense of the inner, intuitive experience of enlightenment. It is said to be unexplainable, indescribable, and unintelligible by reason and logic. In many ways, that pretty much sums up Major’s Satori, a work for five dancers and tubes of light.
It opens with a dancer effectively in a beautifully fluid duet with one of the tubes, held by one of the others, who is hidden, which makes it appear free-floating. It directs her, almost nudging her as it suggests how should move. The first thought is puppeteer and marionette but the longer it continues, the more the light feels like an orb from the spirit world.
When the other dancers join in, they use additional light tubes to form an ever-shifting pentagon that equally shifts in space, although we can now see their handlers. Out of this flows a smooth solo and another duet. Again, it is beautiful, almost meditative or mystical even.
While the play of those tubes of light has appeal, and one can’t help feeling it is that which is really important here, with no other meaning, the attraction soon starts to wane however. Matters are not helped by the dancers, even in the solo and duet, tending to be obscured by the glare or disappear into the surrounding gloom. Whether that’s deliberate or the age-old problem of the film camera being much less forgiving than the human eye, which can deal with a much greater range of light, it’s hard to say, although the fact the photos are much clearer than the film rather suggests the answer.
Spaces Between Us and Satori, presented by Black Box Live, is available until August 30, 2021. For details and tickets, visit tickets.edfringe.com.