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Lockdown Anxieties Laid Bare

Lockdown has seen a major uptick in dance on screen, although much of what’s streaming is old runs and historic films; brand-new work has been harder to come by. This triple bill includes premieres from three UK companies, all devised in response to the pandemic. Produced by the Lawrence Batley Theatre, the works are filmed in and around this Huddersfield venue, and lean into the themes we’ve come to associate with life after Covid: isolation, disruption, and shifting perspectives on freedom and responsibility.


“Locked Down, Locked In, But Living” by Jordan James Bridge, Daniel de Andrade, Gary Clarke, filmed at Lawrence Batley Theatre


Sara Veale


Sara Veale

Mlindi Kulashe, Sara Chun and Matthew Topliss in “Locked in” by Daniel de Andrade for Northern Ballet and produced by the Lawrence Batley Theatre. Photograph by Dave Bewick.

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Up first is Jordan James Bridge’s “Locked Down,” a solo performed by Izzac Carrol, a fellow company member at Studio Wayne McGregor. It’s a sultry concoction with an edgy aesthetic that recalls Sharon Eyal, especially its gender-bending poses. The first act plays out in a pink-lit studio, filmed from jerky angles to heighten the sense of distortion. Wearing tiny briefs and a white cami, Carrol slinks through a series of contortions, some slow and decadent, others pumping. There’s a sense of constraint to the set-up, like he’s itching to break loose but can’t find the space. Even when he’s thrashing, he sticks close to one spot on the floor.

The second half transfers Carrol outside the theatre, where jeans, sneakers and slower music (“Klass” by Tom Ashbrook) come into play. The choreography remains knotty, a loop of moody contractions and full-body extensions, but Carrol performs it more lyrically. Spins and thrusts become pirouettes and bends; he’s not torqueing so much as whirling. His lines are superb, though there’s something uneasy about how desperately the work wants to move us, or at least sell us on the idea of its poignancy. With its intrusive camera and fashionista slant, it could almost be an ad for Adidas.

Izzac Carrol in “Locked down” by Jordan James Bridge. Photograph by Dave Bewick

Daniel de Andrade’s “Locked In” is more tranquil, a composed portrait of hope and melancholy. Its four dancers—all soloists from Northern Ballet—are a tidy quartet, reaching and floating in spruce uniformity. Sarah Chun is especially elegant, holding her poses to the very last second, from sturdy arabesques to wispy lifts.

The first scenes play out in the theatre’s yawning courtyard, where nifty camerawork triples the group on screen, layering their sequences to create a 12-person ensemble—a sort of post-Covid take on the ‘dancing with your own shadow’ trope. From here the original four make their way inside, swanning through hallways, stairwells and even the rafters before finally making it to the stage. The filming is a little fussy, especially the random bursts of slow-motion, but the dancing grows in depth and purpose alongside an increasingly theatrical mise en scene. Street clothes make way for floral leotards; electro music turns orchestral; hand-held camera angles are swapped for steady, straightforward shots from the usual audience POV.

The body here isn’t a source of disease here but divinity.

De Andrade spices his balletic choreography with beautiful contemporary touches, including swivelling knees and upside-down lifts. In one electric phrase, Sean Bates and Mlindi Kulashe tow each other across the floor in a series of luxurious cartwheels. The performance is lovely, but it’s the framing that elevates it. The work transcends the ugly world event that spurred its creation. The body here isn’t a source of disease here but divinity.

Gavin Coward in “But living” by Gary Clarke. Photograph by Dave Bewick

Finally, we have Gary Clarke’s “But Living,” which takes its cue from silent cinema, with old-timey black-and-white footage that sends its star (Gavin Coward of balletLORENT) rollicking through an Alice in Wonderland-style labyrinth, complete with ‘drink me’ potion and a startled rabbit (Gary Hartley Farrar). Dislocation is its chief refrain: Coward scrabbles out of the tiny room he starts in—tumbling down stairwells, through hallways and closets, dashing, falling, hopping, reaching—only to end up there again and again. It’s expertly organised chaos, egged on by Nigel Clarke’s boisterous “Dial H for Hitchcock,” recorded here by the Grimethorpe Colliery Band.

There’s an amateur tinge to the editing that screams ‘iMovie template,’ but Clarke’s runaround choreography is a joy—a knowing play on the way the pandemic has warped our sense of time and space. Clarke throws us a bone in the final scene, finally letting his protagonist escape his cage and skip out of the theatre gates. The optimism is refreshing; here’s hoping it’s prescient!

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.



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