Dreaming in Code is a pair of dance pieces by all-male dance company 2Faced Dance. Five dancers – Jason Boyle, Jack Humphrey, Chris Knight, Luke Rigg and Ed Warner – perform both pieces.
The first, milk night is choreographed by Eddie Kay for Frantic Assembly. It imagines five men living in the future when women have been removed. The dancers begin in three modern tents, entering the space one by one as we progress, and re-enter their tent to exit. The movement of zipping and unzipping the entranceways is key here: these men zip up their hoodies to comfort themselves in uncomfortable situations. They are only able to emotionally unzip when the performance breaks into a stride.
This piece is most engaging in the group movement sections. The first notable example is about ten minutes in when three of the dancers create a chain of three by clasping each other’s arms. They slide fluidly between each other, under arms and into centrifugal lifts without breaking the link. Around them, one of the other dancers directs a handheld torch, hiding the workings of the technique from us in the dark. The swoops and turns become unreal.
Kay shows how the level of trust between the men can reach impressive heights. One section involves Humphrey attempting to leap out of the space, often aggressively, headfirst, hands calmly by his side, and in the direction of the audience. Each time he is caught comfortably by the others, and at the very last minute too. The catches themselves are highly complex, but still so fluid. He may even be caught by a compound made from one dancer’s back and another’s outstretched hand that just catches his ankle.
For the most part, each step of the piece feels natural, born from the spontaneous, but with intent behind it. This is not simply a circus show of their finest moves. To drive this point home, there is a scene in which the boys recreate a spirit-warming disco routine (including Bee Gees track and mirror ball). Kay should be commended for keeping character a top priority.
My only niggle, perhaps with the afterglow of International Women’s Day in the back of my mind, was that women seemed to be presented always as partners to dance opposite to, rather than equals, betters, mothers or daughters. Though there is intimacy between these men at many points, this is a heterosexual world. At times, basing a piece of the absence of women seemed like it was more shallow than it first appeared.
Lucid Grounds, choreographed by the company’s founder and artistic director Tamsin Fitzgerald, is a piece based on questions around the truth, dreams and memories. The back wall is dressed with thick gold drapes that respond to the heavy bass of the backing track. The stage is boarded by a thin line of light and the dancers now dressed in dark capes and gowns that you would likely find in an Egyptian Matrix reboot.
In the 30 minutes or so of the performance I gasped many times. This was not high-flying acrobatics, but curling lifts and cuts that at points defied belief. Bodies interlock at a racing pace, before flinging each other to separate corners of the space. The dancers use each other to achieve the most impressive moments – flipping and rolling what seemed like inches above the ground, with a strong directed push at just the right point.
The pace of the piece remained unbroken throughout. The piece guides your attention closely, and without asking you to endure beyond your limits, pushes you to intensify your own gaze. One particularly striking image, when Rigg moves with keen discipline from a headstand to lifting his body weight with his hands by his waste, showed just how much control over the tempo they achieved.
As a whole, the night was thoroughly fulfilling. The company produces stellar work that would influence any young dancer with need of an ambitious model. While I cannot piece together the concepts themselves into a unified whole, I will certainly look out for more of their work. I doubt I will see much that is as impressively disciplined and innovative as this before then.
Dreaming in Code played at The Place and is currently on tour. For more information, see the 2Faced Dance website.