111
Joel Brown and Eve Mutso performing “111.” Photograph courtesy of Tramway

Framing

Joel Brown and Eve Mutso's duet “111”

Unlimited Festival
Joel Brown and Eve Mutso: “111”
Place
Tramway, Glasgow, Scotland, October 18, 2018
Words
Lorna Irvine

It could be a wry joke about these politically fraught times of Brexit. Dancer Joel Brown, flexing and exercising on the floor, grins, remarking that it’s wonderful to have an Estonian dancer (Eve Mutso) and an American (himself) performing together in Scotland. Yet, it’s absolutely true, and a wonderful example of the unifying nature of choreography. Multiculturalism itself almost seems like an act of resistance these days.

“111” is part of Tramway’s world-class Unlimited Festival, which draws together new work from disabled artists. Mutso was a principal dancer with Scottish Ballet, and Brown, also a singer songwriter, is currently with Candoco Dance Company. This is their brand new collaboration.

To an eclectic soundtrack of Penguin Cafe Orchestra, Julia Jacklin, Dawn of Midi and Radiohead, they create sculptural shapes with their elegant long limbs. They come together, gliding on Brown’s wheelchair, like mighty mastheads on a ship; and just as suddenly, they break apart, riven in two.

Tender as lovers, or playful as uninhibited little children, they swing from the massive climbing frame, gorgeously lit by Paul Sorley in warm amber and scarlet. They seem weightless at times, their sinewy aerial work giving the appearance of birds of prey ready to pounce.

The moods vacillate between eerie and joyful. It’s knotty, and slightly naughty. Their personalities shine throughout the piece. Where Brown is more forthright and cheeky, Mutso seems inscrutable. But roles blur, with both leaving themselves vulnerable (starfish shapes on the floor) or proud and mighty. There are no leaders, both are equal partners in this collaboration.

111
Joel Brown and Eve Mutso performing “111.” Photograph by Vik Singh Taak.

Mutso creates balletic shapes, weaving around Brown’s prone frame. Her lithe arabesques become jagged. She’s nose to nose at one stage with Brown, yet not quite touching.

Brown uses his teeth to hoist his legs up, pulling acrobatic shapes in and around his wheelchair. There are definite parallels between his solos and those of Marc Brew, with whom Brown has worked, but this piece is less sexually charged than Brew’s recent piece “May Be” for two dancers.

Rather, it’s more focused on two people becoming a singular unit. Brown and Mutso are not just showboating for the sake of it. They’re playing with ideas of the body as a frame, and how we frame flexibility, trust and limitations. Mutso says that she was once scared of heights; now she swings from the top of the huge frame, smiling beatifically as she looks down.

Brown comments that his spine has fused and Mutso “moves like she has a hundred vertebra:” it seems, he suggests, that between he and Mutso, they make up a whole framework. There’s a nice circularity to this, as of course 111 makes up three.

As Brown is balanced on her slender shoulders, she wears him like a cloak. He wraps right around her, and she carries him with great care. Their movements are now more meditative, ritualistic. They tangle and unravel, weave and bob, with torsos rippling like ocean waves: sometimes independent; sometimes co-dependent.

This work seems almost superhuman. At times, given the dominance of the huge frame, there is a sense of jeopardy. The frame, almost a bulky ‘third character,’ is dangerous. Its presence reminds the audience of the fragility of us all; but also the power and resilience, displaying the capacity, too, for greatness.

“111” is poignant, moving and forward-facing choreography. It challenges and provokes as much as it delights and astounds. Where Brown and Mutso go next is impossible to guess, but it will undoubtedly be fascinating.


Unlimited Festival
Tramway, Glasgow, Scotland, October 18, 2018

It could be a wry joke about these politically fraught times of Brexit. Dancer Joel Brown, flexing and exercising on the floor, grins, remarking that it’s wonderful to have an Estonian dancer (Eve Mutso) and an American (himself) performing together in Scotland. Yet, it’s absolutely true, and a wonderful example of the unifying nature of choreography. Multiculturalism itself almost seems like an act of resistance these days.

“111” is part of Tramway’s world-class Unlimited Festival, which draws together new work from disabled artists. Mutso was a principal dancer with Scottish Ballet, and Brown, also a singer songwriter, is currently with Candoco Dance Company. This is their brand new collaboration.

To an eclectic soundtrack of Penguin Cafe Orchestra, Julia Jacklin, Dawn of Midi and Radiohead, they create sculptural shapes with their elegant long limbs. They come together, gliding on Brown’s wheelchair, like mighty mastheads on a ship; and just as suddenly, they break apart, riven in two.

Tender as lovers, or playful as uninhibited little children, they swing from the massive climbing frame, gorgeously lit by Paul Sorley in warm amber and scarlet. They seem weightless at times, their sinewy aerial work giving the appearance of birds of prey ready to pounce.

The moods vacillate between eerie and joyful. It’s knotty, and slightly naughty. Their personalities shine throughout the piece. Where Brown is more forthright and cheeky, Mutso seems inscrutable. But roles blur, with both leaving themselves vulnerable (starfish shapes on the floor) or proud and mighty. There are no leaders, both are equal partners in this collaboration.

111
Joel Brown and Eve Mutso performing “111.” Photograph by Vik Singh Taak.

Mutso creates balletic shapes, weaving around Brown’s prone frame. Her lithe arabesques become jagged. She’s nose to nose at one stage with Brown, yet not quite touching.

Brown uses his teeth to hoist his legs up, pulling acrobatic shapes in and around his wheelchair. There are definite parallels between his solos and those of Marc Brew, with whom Brown has worked, but this piece is less sexually charged than Brew’s recent piece “May Be” for two dancers.

Rather, it’s more focused on two people becoming a singular unit. Brown and Mutso are not just showboating for the sake of it. They’re playing with ideas of the body as a frame, and how we frame flexibility, trust and limitations. Mutso says that she was once scared of heights; now she swings from the top of the huge frame, smiling beatifically as she looks down.

Brown comments that his spine has fused and Mutso “moves like she has a hundred vertebra:” it seems, he suggests, that between he and Mutso, they make up a whole framework. There’s a nice circularity to this, as of course 111 makes up three.

As Brown is balanced on her slender shoulders, she wears him like a cloak. He wraps right around her, and she carries him with great care. Their movements are now more meditative, ritualistic. They tangle and unravel, weave and bob, with torsos rippling like ocean waves: sometimes independent; sometimes co-dependent.

This work seems almost superhuman. At times, given the dominance of the huge frame, there is a sense of jeopardy. The frame, almost a bulky ‘third character,’ is dangerous. Its presence reminds the audience of the fragility of us all; but also the power and resilience, displaying the capacity, too, for greatness.

“111” is poignant, moving and forward-facing choreography. It challenges and provokes as much as it delights and astounds. Where Brown and Mutso go next is impossible to guess, but it will undoubtedly be fascinating.

Gustavo Dudamel
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