LCP Dance Theatre are an award-winning aerial dance company, whose work aims to raise awareness of human rights issues, using stage performance, live music and film; using real life stories as their starting point.
Their work, here and elsewhere, seeks to illuminate the interrelationships between art and the real world – reflecting the political, economic, religious, ethical and lawful contexts in which work is made and displayed.
LCP’s latest work, Escape, is a collaboration between the company’s artistic director and choreographer, Joanna Puchala from Poland (now resident in London), and JC Bailey from Australia; a two-woman show fusing dance and acrobatics with video projection and music.
Beautiful images of submerged women project onto a transparent curtain that the performers then pierce open, revealing a metal frame with four-foot aerial slings rigged in the middle of the structure; and behind, a screen where images finally meet their end projection.
The videos transport us to different times and spaces (the moving image work created with attention to detail by Eran Tsafir, a London-based Israeli artist and filmmaker; with additional multimedia work by a regular collaborator with LCP, Polish artist, film-maker and graphic designer Lidhka Inga. The images are both beautiful and disturbing – sometimes one thinks of Ophelia in Hamlet.
The precious and unique space created through the projections then gives way to choreographic movement, performed both in the air and on the ground. The video images are then fragmented in and around the dancers’ scenes. The soundtrack, created by Stefano Guzzetti, starts with a melancholy violin accompanying the video, but then moves into an electronic score.
The company’s stated intention is to portray the impact of a new, unfamiliar environment on a refugee, who must necessarily face social, political and psychological challenges in order to integrate with their new society – a topic of great urgency currently in Europe.
Yet this urgency doesn’t translate to the performance of the dancer-acrobats, and a gap opens up between the viewer and the work. Although the choreography sometimes shows lightness, fluidity and finesse, there is a detachment between performers (whose faces seem unengaged with the work) and the audience.
The high points of the piece show the possibility of overlapping the choreography with the images projected. Unfortunately these strong moments happen too rarely, leaving the viewer to drift, waiting for more junctions between live performance and projections. What could be exceptional gradually becomes predictable and boring.The best moments come close to the end, with a doubles silks act in which the bodies finally dialogue directly with the theme of the show.
Following this, we are surprised by a video documentary featuring interviews and maps the fast and furious relaying of information contrasting sharply with the beautiful and dreamy images projected earlier in the show.
With the exception of a little girl refugee interviewed, only men appear in the video giving their testimony about the escape from their countries toward freedom through dangerous sea journeys in the struggle to survive. The lack of female interviewees perhaps showing a reluctance to examine the experience of female refugees – or perhaps an acknowledgement that the vast majority of people in the Calais Jungle are male. Or another explanation rests with the fact that many men testify that the most harrowing and disturbing experience of their journey across the seas was witnessing women, some pregnant, drowning. Perhaps this is the heart of the piece – the male view of female distress? It is unclear how all the elements are intended to be read.
An interesting work, with beautiful moments of interaction between projection and physical performance, but the subject matter for the most part let down by the delivery of the work.