Fusing moments

Feature in Issue 8-2 | Summer 1996

Following last issue’s focus on aerialists working in the club scene, Tara Kemp spoke to Sophy Griffiths and Isabel Rocamora of Momentary Fusion, an aerial company who create site-specific performances and work in traditional theatre spaces.

I worked with Isabel Rocamora and Sophy Griffiths as administrator on a site-specific production High Vaultage in Summer 1995. At the time I was struck by the extraordinary degree of communication and trust between the two. This is a common phenomena in physical performance, but it seemed in their case to be exceptionally highly developed. On stage they seemed twin-like, as a single body with two heads and a multiplicity of arms and legs! Off stage, they are creatively ambitious and close as artists, performers and friends. It is quite surprising to notice that they are, in fact, very different from one another, both in their personalities and physical appearance.

Currently touring their new show, Stung, I went to talk to Isabel and Sophy about new developments in their work since High Vaultage. The company has recently acquired a third performer, Lindsey Butcher. I was curious to find out how the established duo were coping with an additional partner. ‘It’s brilliant,’ they said (in unison). Adding that they found Lindsey to be very open to their ideas and willing to try anything. The addition of a third performer and various items of new equipment has extended their creative ideas. They describe the new work as being more ‘emotional, human and honest’ than previous pieces. This is perhaps because they have begun to find a way of drawing together different aspects of their work.

There has been some confusion in the minds of critics, funding bodies and the like in the classification of Momentary Fusion’s work. It is not dance, new circus, theatre, mime or live installation, but draws on all of these; plus film, literature and many other sources. While these diverse elements give Momentary Fusion a unique performance style, they admit that previous work has perhaps been a little disjointed as a result, particularly in combining the aerial and terrestrial choreography. They both agree, ‘Stung is more thoroughly choreographed than High Vaultage was. It is less a series of scenes and more flowing.’

The most immediately impressive elements of their work are the height and the pure physical strength. But Isabel and Sophy are more interested in subtle changes in atmospheric, emotional and intuitive communication. They explain that they don’t perform in clubs because ‘we like to be able to manipulate the atmosphere of the performance very precisely’.

Audiences are very adaptable and accepting of their work. ‘There are different audience conventions for all forms of performance and by the end of our show our audience has usually created its own convention,’ Sophy says. ‘It doesn’t put us off if people clap in the middle of a sequence’ (as one would at circus), ‘or mistake a momentary blackout or fade in the lights as signalling the end of the piece’ (as it so often does in dance).

Momentary Fusion’s work is largely site specific. The new show, however, is designed for a theatre space. As there is no architecture to use they have included a cloud swing, climbing harness and slings as well as a cone shaped structure. Amazingly they choreograph largely without the use of counts, but by ‘feel’ or intuitive timing (neither coming from a dance background).

However, working recently with drummer Neil Conti has encouraged them to use counts, and they seem delighted by the novelty of this technique. In truth, without counts it is probably much harder to recreate that sensing ability that Isabel and Sophy have between them with a third performer, and working at 25 feet off the ground without safety nets, misinterpretation could prove fatal.

Finally, I couldn’t resist asking if they ever fall? ‘No,’ they grin. ‘Well, not in performance.’

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Issue 8-2
p. 14