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Zoi Dimitriou, Rosie Kay & Angela Woodhouse

Bonnie Bird Theatre, Laban, Deptford 21 November 2006

This Shared Bill by choreographers Zoi Dimitriou, Rosie Kay & Angela Woodhouse proved to be an uncommonly stimulating and thought provoking evening.

The first, and longest, item was Angela Woodhouse's Fine Line; her name was new to us, and the press release told us that she was dealing with "invasion of territory, proximity and privacy within a public arena".

Fine Line takes its inspiration from Gaston Bachelard's view of human existence as half closed/half open, ‘charged with hesitation'. There was no music, no talk, no sound, and this lack of any aural connective tissue made some of the audience uncomfortable. We watched the dancers go through their motions singly or in pairs, approaching and turning away, seemingly without coherence. Everything happened painfully slowly. On occasion individual 'dancers' turned and looked at us intently, pleadingly? – and not only at us as a group but also at individual members of the audience. We were all put on edge. Toward the end of the piece the dancers lined up in a designated row of seats reserved for them behind ours. What were we to make of this? We were forced to try to supply whatever answers might satisfy us.

This led to an extraordinary restlessness, as watchers in front of us gradually turned round, craning their necks and shifting their positions to see what would happen next, some suppressing embarrassed laughter, all obeying an unwritten rule of silence. I looked to my companions for some philosophical explanation of what it was all about? In fact it was we who were providing the next part of the piece, despite ourselves!

Thankfully, the tension was released by Rosie Kay’s ‘Asylum’, a never-to-be forgotten tour de force of physical extremes. Here the audience's only 'job' was to enjoy.

With her male companion she sustained the fastest and furiousest "dance fight" imaginable, to mesmerising effect. They were supposed to be "confronting identity" in a landscape of personal and lost baggage. I assumed the title alluded to asylum-seekers and their meagre possessions, but the programme notes also referred to an ‘insane reality'. Were we inside an asylum, then?

No matter, the physical energy was everything that was promised. The choreographer and female lead, Rosie Kay, is an exceptional dancer, ably partnered by Andreas Decker. They flung themselves about (with such vigour that we were hoping the floors were padded to prevent injury) to a scratchy mix and match sound track smoothly encompassing 'Vivaldi, Minutemen, Mogwai, Antonio Carlos Jobim, J S Bach, Yann Tiersen and Michael Andrews'; music which had comparable vitality to that of the dancers' stormy relationship. Bach, Antonio Carlos Jobim, and Michael Andrews. The programme note asked us if they are "insane to stick together"? I thought not; two strong personalities working out tensions and showing themselves affectionate after all.

Zoi Dimitriou’s solo ‘Can you see me?is an intellectually clever and beautifully performed piece which returned us to the concerns of the first piece. It too explored the interplay between dancer and audience, but here we were in safe hands. Zoi Dimitriou's voice – sometimes taped, sometimes live -- questioned us, as did visual displays of her eyes darting from one position to another. ‘Do you like me like this? Or is it better like this?'

But the questions were rhetorical, part of a seamless exploration of artist and audience, fully controlled by the artist. Even when the stage lights were turned on us we were never asked to truly react and answer her, to our considerable relief! Zoi Dimitriou displayed winning charm and humour in the dialogue between herself and ourselves watching her, the simple text of few words elaborated until it became a veritable poem. With subtly pointed sexy poses and gestures, and brilliant stage lighting counterpointed by music of Manfred Mann and Barbra Streisand, she lured us into "re-examining the act of seeing and being seen at the heart of perception or misperception of self".

A great evening at Laban.

Fern Bryant and Peter Grahame Woolf