Rosie Kay’s latest work, There Is Hope, is intelligent, thoughtful, soothing and provocative.
A deliberate use of set and visual imagery throughout the performance, alongside strong musicality, all serve to express the power of thought behind the movement on stage. The figure of a preacher is repeatedly overtaken, possessed almost, by these mediums, as the blare and ripple of a trumpet synchronises with his speech, commanding the audience’s attention. Corey Baker portrays a strict and unyielding preacher, summoning up followers from the audience; it is a strong performance that aptly matches the striking set, which consists of a large, sloping black cross, complete with a built-in TV screen on the base.
As chaos ensues, actors spring with animalistic energy from trapdoors, thrashing, hurling and thundering about the stage wearing hoods of eagles and rams. Baker’s preacher is overthrown, beheaded neatly by a trapdoor built into the cross, whilst another trapdoor is used to birth a demon baby. It’s all very symbolic of religion breeding evil and vice versa; however, exactly which way around Kay intends this to be interpreted seems to be up to us to decide.
Kay has developed a piece whose rhythm and pacing mimics that of our own search for answers. The start of Act Two lulls us into a serene world with the sweet, pungent aroma of incense, both throughout the theatre and in small plumes of smoke on the stage. The black cross, earlier scattered with litter, is now lovingly adorned with a vibrant array of flowers, and the incessant chanting from a man in a meditative pose produces a beautiful stillness; we are at the same time in a state of trance and awe. Is this it? Have we found the answer, we wonder? This section is lengthy in relation to the piece as a whole, yet it is cleverly so; we are teased with a sense of calm and security for just long enough for us to begin accepting it, yet short enough that we don’t have a chance to begin wondering when it is all going to go pear-shaped. This is the genius in Kay’s choreography: she pushes each section and train of thought right up to the line, giving us enough chance to absorb the atmosphere, consider the implications and begin to accept the idea before jolting us back into awareness with a change of pace and tone.
As a whole, There Is Hope posits a relentless ambiguity. At times dancers’ movements are independent; at others they are in sync, often connected by holding hands – a nod towards the personal, but also the universal and communal nature of faith. Whilst the partial nudity at the end of the piece adds little to our understanding, the performance builds to a mirroring of the pirouetting cast against a backdrop of shining stars; it is indicative of human beings’ constant and eternal search for answers.
There Is Hope is touring until Friday 3 May. For more information and tickets, see the Rosie Kay Dance Company website.