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Siobhan Davies Dance Company

‘Plants and Ghosts’

4th June 2003
London, Riverside Studios

by Ann Williams


Saxon in reviews

Montes in reviews

recent Siobhan Davies reviews

more Ann Williams reviews




Over the years, I’ve seen Siobhan Davies’ work – some of it anyway – and although I’ve admired it, I’ve never been able to reach the heights of enthusiasm expressed by more savvy dance enthusiasts than myself. Until now, that is. Last night I saw Siobhan Davies Dance Company perform ‘Plants and Ghosts’ at the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith, and at last I understand the fervour and respect Davies’ work commands.; this layered, complex and thrilling work would convert even the most stubborn of old tutu-and-tights diehards.

‘Plants’, uninterrupted by an interval, lasts just over an hour. Eight dancers dressed in Genevieve Bennett and Sasha Keir’s flattering black trousers and sleeveless tops make up the troupe. The ‘music’ (identified in the programme as ‘composed sound installation’) is by Max Eastley. The sounds seemed environmental to me -: a wood fire crackling, wind snapping canvas sails, paper being crinkled, dogs howling, and that good old stand-by – waves breaking on a shore. It was all entirely appropriate to what was happening on the floor of the Riverside’s main studio.

The piece opens with a single dancer, Deborah Saxon, standing still and then moving jerkily backwards, bare feet squeaking on the polished floor. She is joined by the others of the troupe, moving , weaving, running fast across the floor , avoiding each other by the merest flicker. Davies seems to be a master of spatial sculpture (if that sounds pretentious I apologise, but it’s the only way I can convey what I saw, which, quite often, was the clearly defined space between the dancers).

Next, a long and thrilling solo by Henry Montes, who lay still on the floor, sat up, picked imaginary pieces from it and then rolled on it, the top half of his body amazingly seeming to move before the bottom half ; as lengthy as this solo was., I didn’t want it it to stop. Some of the fascination here must obviously be with the dancer himself, but most of it, I’d guess, is with Davies’ telling , economic choreography. Less is more and not a single movement seemed wasted.. Interestingly, while the programme credits Davies as choreographer, there’s another note citing ‘Movement material by the company dancers’ listing several dancers, including Montes, Old, Saxon , Warsop.

That stalwart of contemporary dance, the shaven-headed Paul Old had a wonderful, testing solo involving rapid jumps from deep squats on one bended knee, which he did with ease. …

The only hint of a dance narrative was one male-female duet suggesting domestic violence followed by tenderness; at other times there were fast crowd groupings; dancers in a bunched line pulling apart and then bunching again; once a woman launched herself in a flashing leap into a waiting bunch of dancers.

A spoken narrative by Caryl Churchill , voiced by the recorded Linda Bassett, told of a woman lunching with her married lover and biting her tongue (there was more to Churchill’s bittersweet tale than I note here). This was accompanied by a gorgeous solo danced by `Tammy Arjona , replacing a (presumably injured) male dancer. Arjona danced with unfussed clarity across the now emptied floor, with fleet, airy jumps which lifted the heart (interestingly, this was the only point where I was reminded of classical ballet).

A drop-dead gorgeous woman on stilts (Sara Warsop?) ended the proceedings. In a strapless black cross-gartered top, she weaved two poles above her head and around her neck (as one does, of course) with the same ease and elegance as she managed her stilts ‘ Amazing.

Plants and Ghosts’ is on at the Riverside until Saturday, and it deserves to be seen. Tickets are still available. - GO FOR IT!



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