A lifetime shared: Theo Clinkard’s The Days

The Place, London
April 26, 2022

Theo Clinkard’s The Days, created in collaboration with Finnish performers Maria Nurmela and Ville Oinonen, is built around the single physical practice of alternating movement between two people, specifically one shifting some part of the other’s body with the roles continually being reversed. It’s an instantly recognisable, commonly-used improvisation task that most contemporary dancers will have done at some time.

As Nurmela and Oinonen effectively craft each other, it is quite engaging, especially in the opening, more considered section, where the movement is quite nuanced and where Clinkard and the dancers are not afraid to take their time.

It feels like one is watching snippets of narrative from a lifetime together as the exchanges loop around. Nurmela is the more compelling of two. Her face carries a lifetime of experiences. There is a clear sense of memory, of deeply buried complex feelings, as each in turn places in the other in a position that reflects a recollection or experience from the past. They very obviously care for each other. The clarity of movement is superb.

Maria Nurmela and Ville Oinonen in Theo Clinkard’s The Days
Photo Karoliina Korvuo

The Days loses some of that when things gather pace, however. As composer James Keane’s vaguely new-age sounds give way to more insistent percussion, there’s a lot of falling and supporting, being dragged across and rolling on the floor. Nurmela sometimes appears to try to run away, yet always gets pulled back. The need for connection somehow remains.

And yet, as good as it is, and although it is all very human, surprisingly, especially given it is performed in the round with the audience close up, I felt I was watching, but somehow separated. I wasn’t sharing. I didn’t get any emotional charge. There was a definite disconnect; at least until the arrival of two older performers, here Silvana Desira and Christopher Bannerman (they change from venue to venue).

Things suddenly get much more meaningful. Desira and Bannerman bring much greater presence. The central movement idea remains but the dance becomes more eloquent and has greater depth. Perhaps it’s something to do with them having more real-life experience to bring to the stage. It’s almost certainly something to do with Keane’s soundscape giving way to the delicious tones of Nina Simone’s ‘Wild is the Wind.’ It’s actually quite easy to read them as older versions of the original couple, although whether that is Clinkard’s intent is unclear and I somehow doubt. Their dance shouts gentleness and caring. It ends beautifully and quietly, the pair dancing softly in embrace as the lights fade.