Resolution 2019: Rowena Gander /Christopher Thomas Dance/Company Nil

Jan Chris Thomas. Photo by Stephen Wright

Rowena Gander is a woman moving on a silver pole. Far from sexualised, she is a coiled ball in a womb-like, stretchy fabric sack. She presses her face through the mesh. She shapeshifts amidst tense music and now she is a hostage tied to a post. Taking charge, the cloth becomes a skirt and she flips the pole down with strength, legs askew outside the up-ended circle. She spins it around the floorspace, leaping over it. The effect is mesmeric; pleasingly obscure and unemotive. Emancipated, she morphs into a villain in a strapless dress, winding her long ponytail around itself. Technical prowess is lacking but we enjoy the power play.

A painting of a lost father hangs above a gothic spray of flowers and candles. With sounded breath, three sinuous daughters and a son sweep each other up in energetic circles, acting out arguments over silver lockets and hand-penned letters. Dressed in black cheesecloth, they mourn and shake; they comfort each other, holding their siblings tightly in dramatic embraces. There is powerful storytelling here: worthy of Dracula or Frankenstein. A cohesive, fluid and well-rehearsed ensemble. The dancers are highly proficient, but more nuance in speed, effort and tone plus individual characterisation would bring darker shadow and light to this striking composition.

Company Nil are two men of similar ages. This causes disconnection with the programme notes that state the premise is ‘a man and a boy’. Opening on a wide stage, brightly lit latitudinally, the work is intriguingly slow, relying on minimalist movement to draw us in. The dancers shift the proximity between them, loop elbows, then briefly grapple in a shoulder lock. It feels satisfyingly authored, with controlled, dignified choreography. The fine art equivalent might be found at the White Cube. This subtle piece is mature and commanding.

Reviewed on 17th of January at The Place by Isobel Rogers