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  • Chris O'Rourke

The Here Trio

The Here Trio Digital Film. Image by Luca Truffarelli.

Live performance often suffers more than succeeds when transferring to the screen. Dance, however, has often enjoyed a more amenable relationship with the medium. Exploring that relationship, Liz Roche's digital film The Here Trio, juxtaposes recorded scenes from a performance of The Here Trio in the MAC, Belfast, from February 2020 (with dancers Ryan O'Neill, Sarah Cernaux and Lucia Kickham) with a reimagined live performance in front of, and in direct response to, those scenes (the live performance featuring O'Neill once more, with Justine Cooper and Glòria Ros Abellana). The entire process being filmed by Luca Truffarelli, also responsible for sound design. If conceptually intriguing, visually the outcome is often less so as a series of moments mirror and echo, remember and reinterpret what once was to create a new now. Embedded in Stephen Dodd's brooding, ponderous lighting design in which even the light seems made of shadow.

Through a series of stop start moments divided musically as well as visually, with Bryan O'Connell's soundtrack defined by white noise and archetypal percussions, text, more than movement or image, initially establishes expectations. A dancer's long, slow walk towards the onscreen image is overlaid by words spoken with robotic lifelessness. Delivering vapid musings aspiring to insight lodged uncomfortably between the philosophic and poetic. Motifs repeated about bodies in space, scars as triggers, and not being fully here all lack rigour and depth while simultaneously feigning both. Like late night ponderings voiced after a particular good night, you know something's being said, it's just not as clever nor as interesting, when you try to unpack it, as it thinks it sounds.

The Here Trio Digital Film. Image by Luca Truffarelli.

Throughout, the camera's eye is never neutral. If Truffarelli appears unobtrusive while making his presence felt, you have to wonder what might have been had Truffarelli also directed, or shown a little less reverence. For Roche's direction doesn't so much frame her rich choreography so much as constrict it. Layering the screen with the performance space before it, both inform each other yet always remain separate. A series of solos highlights the artificiality of this layering, speaking smartly to the relationship between live dance and the filming of it. To the manner in which movement is framed, given more energy, yet loses something trapped in translation.

In attempting a conversation between the screened there and then and a live here and now, the parameters of what is being relayed, remembered, reinterpreted and reimagined is conceptually interesting, if not always visually riveting. A series of short solos, and the final synchronised sequence, prove a choreographic delight. Yet some fusions don't work, or don't work well enough, looking ragged and not quite as sharp. Restricted to limited angles, and to a screen in which a smaller, green coloured screen recycles selected images from an older performance seems like an opportunity missed. While also suggesting that the original performance, in this instance, was the better. Often by virtue of relating more clearly to things other than itself. A snare The Here Trio never quite frees itself from nor exploits enough, even as it aspires to speak to borders, boundaries and belonging. As it fades to black you're left with a sense of a job well, if not memorably done. And with a craw for live performance.

The Here Trio Digital Film. Image by Luca Truffarelli.

The Here Trio's conversational interplay between the screened and the live, the once lived and the relived, makes for some revealing moments. Alas they are far too few to be truly impressive or challenging. For long periods the framing feels stiff and heavy handed, even if beautifully edited, as the COVID straight-jacket makes its presence felt. Even so, The Here Trio is a film and not simply a recording of dance under lockdown. If it does credit to both Truffarelli and Roche at times, some tracts do neither any great favours for feeling weighted and trapped and barely able to breathe. Begging the question of what a sympathetic director with a love of dance, steeped in the language of the visual medium, might have done. Its sluggishness may speak to the current difficulties of making art under COVID, or to a dancer directing a movie. Either way, if it looks good, and it can look very good at moments, it rarely looks great. Something both Roche and Truffarelli are clearly capable of.

The Here Trio, by Liz Roche Company, co-produced with Maiden Voyage Dance and screened in partnership with Project Arts Centre, Tipperary Dance Platform and Dance Limerick premiered online on March 4 and is available online till March 6.

For more information visit Project Arts Centre.


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