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

A Danced Legacy
REVIEWS | Cecilia Whalen

A Danced Legacy

A man stands on a dark box facing sideways. He gently shifts his weight from heels to toes, rocking forward and backward. His gaze remains front, but his body never lands anywhere. He is in constant motion: neither here nor there, caught somewhere in between. 

Continue Reading
Questions that Remain
REVIEWS | Phoebe Roberts

Questions that Remain

To begin her creative process, the legendary German choreographer Pina Bausch often asked her dancers questions. These questions—and further, the thoughts and deeper rumblings they provoked in the dancers—then formed the basis for many of her pieces. 

Continue Reading
Swans in Seattle
REVIEWS | Rachel Howard

Swans in Seattle

One way to get to know the history of a company is through the “liner notes” of its “Swan Lake” production, and for those of us continuing to build an admiring familiarity with Pacific Northwest Ballet via its digital season offerings, Kent Stowell and Francia Russell’s “Swan Lake” provides an interesting glimpse into PNB prior to Peter Boal’s leadership.

FREE ARTICLE
Good Subscription Agency