Friday, 3 March 2017

Chapter 176: Lumo Company's Lola

All photo credits: Chantal Guevara of  Cloud Dance Festival (click here)

The Place to be on Saturday night was in Euston, home to the contemporary dance festival Resolution 2017. On the last night of the festival, which had showcased over 70 different experimental pieces, I went to see tightwire artist Hanna Moisala and actor Heidi Niemi who together have formed the contemporary circus and physical theatre Lumo Company. They are both from Finland, which informs the emotive landscape of a piece that is darkly strange and fiercely beautiful. This first work in progress sharing of Lola, presented by Jacksons Lane, was a shockingly funny and tenderly moving exploration of memory loss and the resulting isolation through the depiction of the symbiotic relationship between the two women. 

Heidi was the body losing her mind, expletives slipped out and language slipped away, the functionality of objects escaped her, and her frustration was palpable. A piece of string, an aide-memoire, was slurped up like a noodle of spaghetti for starters, chewed up with animal gusto, while a musical instrument was potentially the main course. The plasticity of Heidi's face, her blank "chewing the cud" stare and the absurdity of her actions captured both the comedy and pathos of her condition, as anyone who has had a loved one suffering from any form of dementia would recognise. Hanna was the memory reasserting herself, punishingly so.  Stapling notes to a memory board, there was a collective gasp from the audience as Hanna turned and then stapled the final one to Heidi's bare bottom. Maybe there is a case for shock tactics resuscitating memory, it will certainly be a graphic moment I will never forget. 

There were moments of unspeakable tenderness and comfort between them as well, including my favourite acrobalance movement when Heidi took a running leap into Hanna's arms and in the catch wrapped herself round her horizontally. The use of a skipping rope was clever, doubling as a whip and then used for a beautifully choregraphed acro-skipping duet. I found echoes here in the aesthetic and dynamics of shibari, the Japanese bondage art form that inspired Hanna's solo piece Wiredo

I loved the visual progression in the work from string, to rope, to finally tightwire. Where better to display the precarious nature of memory loss? As Hanna stepped out on the wire, she incarnated the zen focus that we all need in our lives if we want to hold onto reality. It was a solo piece, and yet Heidi was present as an observer, watching her mind at work, and at one point standing under the wire her head became Hanna's balancing point. The audience sat in rapt concentration, as though willing Hanna to safety, but the sheer grace of a high splits kick at one point broke through our studied silence to elicit a huge round of applause. It was a breath-taking finale to a piece that is a study in tension, testifying to both the power of mind over body, and its fragility. 

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