This site has limited support for your browser. We recommend switching to Edge, Chrome, Safari, or Firefox.

Experiments in Time and Space

Eleanor Sikorski, Flora Wellesley Wesley and Stephanie McMann, the charming dancers behind the London-based trio Nora, routinely invite guest choreographers to create new work on them. The approach is useful for showcasing their versatility as performers, particularly their flair for theatre, but makes it difficult to identify stylistic through-lines in their rep. Previous pieces shown at the Lilian Baylis have been hugely disparate, their moods ranging from jovial to irreverent to tranquil. With its abstract, contemplative tenor, the troupe’s newest work, “Where Home Is,” by Deborah Hay, adds another contrasting number to the mix.

Performance

“Where Home Is” by Nora/Deborah Hay

Place

Lilian Baylis, Sadler's Wells, London, UK, April 24, 2019

Words

Sara Veale

Nora performing “Where Home Is” by Deborah Hay. Photograph by Camilla Greenwell

subscribe to the latest in dance


“Uncommonly intelligent, substantial coverage.”

  • Weekly articles from the world of dance
  • Wide diversity of reviews, interviews, articles & more
  • Support for quality art journalism

Already a paid subscriber? Login

Hay, a founding member of the venerable Judson collective, is a pioneer of postmodern dance and known for her choreographic experiments with time and space. Her new piece for Nora is, therefore, perhaps best defined by what it isn’t. It isn’t a routine with an obvious start and finish; it isn’t a meditation on a discernible theme; it isn’t an exhibition of technical rigour. In fact, the half-hour work is dislocated from almost all the normal parameters of performance: there’s as much standing around as there is dancing, there’s almost no music, and only once are the audience lights dimmed. Hay herself describes the choreography as “disorienting, comfortingly spare, right in silence.” For me, it registers as equal parts intriguing and confounding.

Deborah Hay Nora
Nora performs “Where Home Is” by Deborah Hay. Photograph by Camilla Greenwell

The dance we do witness includes shuffling and scooting, crawling and twirling, languid repose and goofy stabs at athletics. These motions are slow, casual, fragmented, the trio rarely moving in concert or intensifying their movement into something physically robust. Every so often a phrase materialises with some expressive lustre. In one, McMann and Sikorski egg on Wellesley Wesley as she bops around the stage, teasing her with daffy cheers like “bring it home” and “do it for London!” In another, the three align for a harmonised choral arrangement, a dusky display that’s both serene and unsettling.

Witty shows of motion and emotion surface, along with individual strengths, like Sikorski’s forte for ad-libbing and Wellesley Wesley’s leonine form, a striking edifice of long, twisted lines. The passive choreography does little to highlight these talents, though; they seem to emerge incidentally. The questions posed are interesting—Are the borders of performance fixed? Why is stillness so uncomfortable?—but there’s an aloofness that dulls even the livelier segments.

The troupe followed up the performance with a conversation inspired by Hay’s experience of rehearsing her own solo work while creating “Where Home Is.” The three took turns asking the audience to consider different frames for viewership, each meant to widen our perception of how we absorb a performance. The first frame asked us to “remember to recognise time is passing,” while the second pondered whether space can be “anything we want it to be.” The third—“What if my whole body sees what my eyes see?”—invited the audience to voice their thoughts on the subject, prompting one woman to reject “the very presumption that our eyes see the most.” It’s a thought-provoking exercise, but again the abstract, intellectualised tact dims the sense of dynamism.

Sara Veale


Sara Veale is a London-based writer and editor. She's written about dance for the Observer, the Spectator, DanceTabs, Auditorium Magazine, Exeunt and more. Her first book, Untamed: The Radical Women of Modern Dance, will be published in 2024.

comments

Featured

Sound Effect
REVIEWS | Rachel Howard

Sound Effect

Sometimes there’s not much you’re able to say analytically about a dance work, and yet you know you’ve just witnessed a blood-guts-and-soul offering from an artist of the keenest kinaesthetic intelligence. Such was the case with gizeh muñiz vengel’s “auiga,” second on a double bill finale for the ARC Edge residency at San Francisco’s CounterPulse.

Continue Reading
Hope is Action
REVIEWS | Gracia Haby

Hope is Action

The Australian Museum Mammalogy Collection holds ten specimens of the Bramble Cay Melomys collected from 1922–24, when they were in abundance. One hundred years later, a familiar photo of a wide-eyed, mosaic-tailed Melomys, the first native mammal to become extinct due to the impacts of climate change, greets me as I enter the Arts House foyer.

Continue Reading
Common Language
INTERVIEWS | Candice Thompson

Common Language

Pre-pandemic, queerness and ballet were two terms not often put together. So, when choreographer Adriana Pierce started bringing a community of queer-identifying people together on Zoom—cis women, trans people of all genders, and nonbinary dancers—it felt like a watershed moment for many of them. 

Continue Reading
Living Doll
REVIEWS | Rachel Howard

Living Doll

Watching Pacific Northwest Ballet’s “Coppélia,” which the Seattle company generously released as a digital stream for distant fans, you could easily fall down two historically rewarding rabbit holes.

Continue Reading
Good Subscription Agency