A spotlight illuminates a single figure, battling an invisible downward pull. Her fists jab out, push away; her body jerks and curves, resisting whatever bonds are dragging her. In staccato bursts, she enacts an endlessly delayed, endlessly opposed fall.
Yukiko Masui’s delicate Falling Family is a cinematic meditation on the act of falling or resisting a fall. Four dancers – seemingly representing a family, headed by Yumino Seki’s captivating, damaged matriarch – appear in spotlit scenes across the stage, like bright photos in the dark pages of a family album. Sometimes they are energetically engaged in falling or resisting the tug of gravity helping or troubling one another, bursting into spins and shoves. At other times they are laying down multi-coloured dominos, building tenuous structures that inevitably collapse.
Exploring emotional shock like mental breakdown or death within a family unit, Falling Family has an overall minimalist, contemplative aesthetic. Its sudden scenes of panic and pain are therefore exactly as startling as they should be, but its meditative pace tends to let the narrative structure sag.
Léa Tirabasso’s The Ephemeral life of an octopus is, by contrast, all vivid colours and energy. A quartet of performers strip to jolly neon underclothes and begin a wobbly cross-stage boogie to Brahms. They move as if their bones are made of jelly; there’s a newborn quality to their every stagger.
Tirabasso boldly lets ungainliness run rampant; we feel amazed by the reckless animal flesh that houses our souls. The Ephemeral life… is a vibrant, if occasionally overstretched, reckoning with the shocking wildness of the body. As three of the performers tangle a fourth (Catarina Barbosa) in the wires of a microphone, tipping her upside down as she breathlessly tries to sing ‘Henry Lee’, we are also reminded of the sheer helplessness of our bodies in the chaotic process of life. Tirabasso splits individual movement apart to reveal a shaky, vulnerable core of humanity.