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Colette Sadler's mini-festival, “Present Futures,” a team up with producer Feral Arts, is a cohesive, exciting collection of groundbreaking dance, performance, panel discussions, visual art, workshops and films which tackle contemporary issues, featuring brilliant international artists.

Performance

Colette Sadler's mini-festival, “Present Futures” 

Place

Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow, UK, June 22, 2023

Words

Lorna Irvine

Ana Pi's “The Divine Cypher.” Photograph by Daniel Nicoalevsky

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The recipient of the “Present Futures” Bursary, Althea Young's brand new piece, as yet unnamed, is still in its early days, but based on their research sharing is well on the way to being special. Their performance straddles contemporary dance and live art, and dissects sexual desire and autonomy, the desire for having children, the fear of legacy, and the fairytales we are force-fed as children. It's lyrical, caustic and rather touching, playing with tropes of lust, gender, family and love.

Ana Pi's “The Divine Cypher.” Photograph by Daniel Nicoalevsky

To call Ana Pi's “The Divine Cypher” Afro-Futurism would be pretty reductive. It's much more than that, being past, present and future all entwined. The Brazil born dance artist, clad in a kind of hybrid outfit of space traveller and African water carrier takes as her inspiration for the piece  Maya Deren's iconic documentary and book, The Divine Horsemen, an anthropological study into Haitian voudou. She first appears, as seemingly a figure of rebirth, feeling her way around the space, using her hands, feet and finally eyes, before deploying many, many styles associated with Black culture. There's samba, hip hop, jazz, swingbeat, go-go, afrofuturism, and amapiano, complete with whistle. The control and mastery of her body's limitations is extraordinary—she can contort, bend right back. and move each part almost as though trying on each component part for the first time. Carrying a massive plastic water bottle on her head obviously affects and draws attention to posture, balance and gait, a skill she said she only learned while researching and developing the piece.

She somehow also finds her way into playful segments too, with a lip synch and meditation on the space race, playing with her remote controlled Rover moon buggy. These moments are fine, and she has more props than Felix the Cat and his magic bag, but they do rather detract from her vision of storytelling, using her wonderfully sleek, agile little frame as canvas. A scene in which she turns a sacred circle of sugar into a symbolic, unabashed playground of youthful resistance is joyful, infectious and empowering. She kicks up the sugar like sand, tastes it in her mouth, lies down and gets her toes stuck into it. She is a mesmerising dancer, and has the most hypnotic presence which draws you in: wherever she takes you, you willingly go.

Terra, a film by MHz (Dav Bernard and Bex Anson), with photography by Chih Peng Lucas Kao

One of the most fascinating aspects of the line-up is when genres cross-pollinate. So it is with MHz (Dav Bernard and Bex Anson) and their exquisite new film, Terra. Featuring photography from Chih Peng Lucas Kao, actor Anna-Katharina Andrees, and contortionist Hannah Finn, it's a kaleidoscopic, otherwordly dance film making which finds a woman getting dragged into a tangle of wild forest undergrowth, resembling a network of cable wires. The central figure, portrayed by Finn, is at once giant and grub, a “Fifty Foot Queenie,” as PJ Harvey once had it, rooted to the earth, large but vulnerable, with limbs at odd angles. The feeling of psychedelic dreamscape is reinforced by the beautiful, crackling future-folk soundtrack by Cucina Provera. Once witnessed, it's hard to shake off.

Louise Ahl's witty “The Rectangular Frame Contains Me” takes a somewhat different approach. Part dance, part opera, Ahl sings the audio description of her own movement choreography, from describing her appearance, through to singing the credits. With sound from Yas Clarke and video editing by Natalie McGowan, Ahl embodies a dancer who is symbolic of the ''film it or it didn't happen'' generation. It is, despite its wry humour, also a pointed comment on our need to document, film and file absolutely everything, all of the time. Looking back at us from the screen, stretched out or crawling away from the frame, Ahl interrogates this with an unflinching stare. Why can't we just experience things in the moment? How did we come to this? And where will it all end, as AI makes the headlines on a daily basis? Will we become enmeshed with the machine?

Lorna Irvine


Based in Glasgow, Lorna was delightfully corrupted by the work of Michael Clark in her early teens, and has never looked back. Passionate about dance, music, and theatre she writes regularly for the List, Across the Arts and Exeunt. She also wrote on dance, drama and whatever particular obsession she had that week for the Shimmy, the Skinny and TLG and has contributed to Mslexia, TYCI and the Vile Blog.

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