IMAGO by Pett|Clausen-Knight

Lanterns Studio Theatre, London
April 26, 2024

Relationships are complex and come in as many varieties as do humans. They range from warm and cuddly to vitriolic and downright toxic. In IMAGO, dancer-choreographers, James Pett and Travis Clausen-Knight take on a dozen varieties and delve into the complexities using potent dance language and the poetic addition of flowers.

IMAGO, as a full evening work, was a first at Lanterns Studio Theatre and a UK premiere. With the audience close at hand, intimacy was assured but the stage itself is cavernous. However, the lighting helped to draw focus on the performers and create the right conditions.

There was live music. Sean Pett, brother of James and composer, introduced the evening, playing with violinist Adriana Cristea. His music, spiced with hints of a range of classical composers and electronic sounds, supports and enriches the dance.

Pett|Clausen-Knight in IMAGO
Photo Deborah Jaffe

IMAGO is not a single narrative but references moments in time along a spectrum of emotional attachment. Solos relate to initial attraction or rejection. The first is full of anticipation, anxiety and hope in eloquent dance and expressive gesture. Rejection reveals similar emotions but now laced with bitterness and expressed in harsher movements. The duets are complex and rich in detail. The weight bearing partnering offers a great deal of variety and innovation. Pett and Clausen-Knight move fluidly across the floor and in the air, covering the wide stage with ease.

While there is no set, white plinths supporting vases of flowers, are quietly moved on and off the stage at intervals by the dancers. The language of the flowers is ambiguous. The bouquets increase in size to climax with a weird, but strangely beautiful image of Clausen-Knight with his head totally enveloped in flowers. The lead up is a conflict, entangled and angry but choreographically powerful. There are mistimed efforts to reconcile, Clausen-Knight dances alone with Pett’s jacket over his head. A reluctant Pett accepts a rose then places it in his partner’s mouth, a moment which develops as together they cover his head in blooms. The pace slows and the contact becomes closer and more intimate before they exit together.

The choreography eloquently expresses the depth of feeling. Both men are exceptional dancers and have a wealth of performance experience. They know their stuff, and this shows in choreography that uses a broad range of movement, executed with sensitivity and skill to bring meaning to the dance and a penetrating and novel insight into human relations.

Pett|Clausen-Knight hope to tour the UK with IMAGO later this year, although dates and venues are still to be announced. Watch for details.

Read Maggie Foyer’s conversation with Pett|Clausen-Knight about the making of IMAGO here.