Bitter, Sweet and Dark

Choreographed by Dora Frankel
Dora Frankel Dance
Dance City, Newcastle, and touring

Publicity photo

Bitter, Sweet and Dark is a triple bill of dance which finds links between dance and other art forms, responding to what Frankel calls the "deep emotive alliance present in art and poetry".

The first piece, Trio, a work for one female and two male dancers, is inspired by the work of Mark Rothko. His No.14 1960, possibly the most well known of his works, begins the piece. Divided into three horizontally sliced parts, it hangs from three wheeled clothes rails which the dancers move into various configurations, through, over, under and around which they move, often sinuously, sometimes alone, sometimes in twos and sometimes all three together.

The painting provides the initial (and final) visual stimulus for an exploration of conflicting states within one person or within relationships. Bach's Goldberg Variations together with text, some in Swedish but mainly in English, from Hyman Frankel, Helder Camara and Raymond Carver provide the accompaniment.

Trio makes great physical demands on its performers and the trio of Paul Chantry, Oliver Eastwood and (at this performance: at others Natasha Kowalski appears instead) Holly Irving meet the challenge to the extent that, when the piece finished, there was an appreciable stunned silence before the audience broke into enthusiastic applause.

Swathes of Sweet Time which followed also takes its inspiration ftom painting, this time the work of Japanese artist Kenji Yoshida. Created for two female dancers (here Irving and Kowalski), this is a very reflective piece, slow moving and filled with moments of stillness as the dancers flow around a setting which, while reminiscent of Yoshida's paintings, also suggests the Japanese stone garden.

Finally Angel of the Odd, is a story-telling piece which reminded me to some extent of the work of Pina Bausch, not least for its exploration of suffering, her "pornography of pain". It retells four of Edgar Alan Poe's stories: The Man in the Crowd, A Descent into the Maelstrom, The Tell Tale Heart and MS Found in a Bottle.

Here Frankel appears on stage with the whole company, carrying a book and representing Poe himself, although at times she/Poe becomes one of his very scary characters. As nostalgia, loving and longing flow through Swathes, here pain flows through the piece. At one point, during the telling of The Tell Tale Heart, the upper half of her body, an expression of anguish (or was it rage? or both?) on her face, rises from a squirming, pulsating mass of bodies: a frightening,even horrific image, capturing the essence of Poe's work perfectly.

Dora Frankel's approach is very different to anyone else's in the North East and this programme well exemplifies how she unites the intellectual with the visceral and makes huge physical demands on her dancers, all of whom acquit themselves very well indeed. A demanding and yet accessible programme of contemporary dance.

"Bitter, Sweet and Dark" tours to Darlington Arts Centre (28th April) and Washington Arts Centre (14th May)

Reviewer: Peter Lathan

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