- Chris O'Rourke
Evolutions by John Scott and Irish Modern Dance Theatre. Image by Luca Truffarelli
With Evolutions, John Scott proves to be one step ahead of the creative posse. While many artists are only beginning to articulate their response to COVID, Evolutions sees Scott already looking to negotiate ways to move beyond it. Referencing evolutionary theory, Scott explores how dancers from different backgrounds might establish connectedness. Yet echoes of how we might re-establish lost connections in a world now defined by physical distance loom large. Creating a piece both light and fresh. And rather simple at times in its approach.
Simple in that early indications suggest group exercises common in early ensemble work for creating patterns, flow and connection. In this case dancers Ashley Chen, Magdalena Hylak, Favour Odusola, Sarah Ryan, Oran Leong and Alessandra Azevedo. Given Scott's reputation for innovation, it initially looks too easy, too safe, almost lazy these circular patterns as dancers whirl clockwise and counter clockwise without touching, swirl and run through the space without colliding, mirroring and echoing movements to establish connections, whatever their evolutionary suggestiveness. Yet Scott is moving backward to find a way forward. Returning to basics as dancers learn not so much how to dance again, but how to dance together again, finding connections in both physicality and distance.
Throughout, the social reigns supreme courtesy of the preeminence of the ensemble. With hardly anything of sufficient substance to constitute a stand out solo or duet, dancers combine to create a collective of individuals. Even when not touching, their shared experience of distance, of inhabiting the same physical patterns and space, connects and unites them. Drawing them to discovery and physical re-discovery. Pointing to an ankle, an ear, a hip, a vagina. Lounging on each other in near Bacchanalian delight, relishing their practice and (re)discovering their tribe. If an unfocused joke on economics overstays its welcome while bringing us, evolutionary speaking, up to today, it leads into a somewhat tame resolve. Yet even as the end returns to shared separation challenged by mirrored movements, the overwhelming feeling is one of hope and togetherness.
It could be argued that Evolutions is a work of the moment and might not exist were it not for COVID. But that only confirms that Scott, and Irish Modern Dance Theatre, are always about giving organic expression to whatever moment they find themselves in. As they have successfully done for thirty years. With Evolutions, IMDT celebrates thirty years of testing the boundaries, creating interdisciplinary works defined by their humanity whose contribution to dance, nationally and globally, is immeasurable. They deserve every plaudit. Roll on the next thirty years.
Evolutions by John Scott and Irish Modern Dance Theatre, choreographed by John Scott, runs at the Project Arts Centre until October 30.
For more information visit Project Arts Centre.