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Darkin Ensemble - Augustine

at Laban, Deptford 5 February 2007

Modern dance in its experimental developments draws upon psychopathology, rather as did progressive music in the earlier days of modernism. The Darkin Ensemble's one hour show must have been exhausting for the six dancers as it was satisfying for we watchers.

With psychiatric input into its preparation, the 'story' drew on Charcot and his hysteric patients; a license for the most extreme postures and movements.

Best whilst watching not to worry overmuch about the scenario which, we were told, is divided into three Acts, Symptoms, Treatment and Release, which were not clearly demarcated. [Our last evening at Laban was a triple bill including Rosie Kay’s ‘Asylum’, "a never-to-be forgotten tour de force of physical extremes".]

The six brilliant young dancers go through grotesque movements and as their only real prop make diverse uses of three square aluminium trays, which function as cells and wash places amongst others. The limitation of the size enables a vast variety of patterning, and they swap roles between patients and carers.

Excellent costumes and lighting enhance the focus and concentration; the named young 'heroine' starts with a puportedly immobile arm bound up; she is described as suffering too from narcolepsy, nightmares and refusal to speak for weeks at a time. Fleur Darkin interprets disease as 'dancing to a music of memory'. She permits her audiences to laugh, but it was uneasy laughter, from only a few of us...

This work aims to represent dance as 'before and beyond words', so I'll abandon any further attempt to describe it in words. It was supported by one of the best musical scores experienced at Laban, with a single cellist who plays also a violin and vocalises, with electronic controls which she maintains at a quiet level until the final moments.

I was sorry there was no discussion forum afterwards.

Probably something will emerge about the project on the Writing the Body website (which needs updating, hopefully with pictures of Augustine).

For now, the best help is to listen to Fleur Darkin in an illuminating twelve minute video about her work, with snippets to see of her company's dancing.

Defintely worth catching on tour. Details from Laban.

Peter Grahame Woolf


see http://www.writingthebody.co.uk/current_tour.html.

The next public show at Laban is on 6 March: "Protein Dance" doing a one-night stop-over during a nation-wide tour.