On the Rocks did well to include this intelligent and provocative dance piece into their exciting showcase of the best of St Andrews talent. Fate: In Three Parts reached into our fascination with what could have been, what is, and what might be, this obsession with destiny articulated by seven incredibly talented dancers. On entering what is usually Club 601, the audience was immediately struck by the unconventionality of the set design, brilliantly curated by Amy Seaman, which did not have a definite front or back. Arranged in a square around eight metal pillars to which vibrant red cord was attached, the audience was confronted with an unexpected decision that saw the stage marked by the viewers themselves. This gave the audience agency, we too were curators of the space in which the dance unfurled, growing and changing with each dancer as they moved in a distinctly contemporary style.
Choreographed by Alison Thomas and danced by Kamila Draplo, Nastja Matviitsuk, Anna-Leigh Ong, Patrick McLaughlin and Andreas Van Den Hombergh, the first Part, ‘Attachment’, was a sequence that held reels of flexible red cord as its focus, echoing the red ribbon tied around each dancer’s ankle in an interpretation of a Chinese folklore tale. This legend dictated that around each new baby’s ankle is tied a red string, and at the other end of this string is a person we are fated to find. An exploration of the challenges and the pleasures of this notion comprised the first half, as each dancer portrayed a different attitude to the presence of the string. As a physical manifestation of the Chinese myth, bungee – like cord was used to confine and liberate; the dancers themselves interacted with it throughout the piece, stretching the cord between posts, clutching it in their arms and throwing it to the floor. There was a sense of extreme loneliness and despair in the first solo danced by Ong. Her graceful movements were infused with bewilderment at her entrapment in the red string, through which she weaved and ducked to end cross –legged in the middle of the tangle of cord.
This anguish was augmented by an expressive Matviitsuk, heartbroken at the loss of her love. With a beautiful starting sequence in which Van Der Hombergh and Matviitsuk examined the red ribbons on their ankles, the piece progressed into a lyrical composition which saw Matviitsuk take a red cord into her arms and fling it to the floor, the rawness of her emotion enhanced by her audible breathing. This heartbreak was contrasted sharply by her later duet with McLaughlin, which celebrated the red string’s ability to unite soulmates. McLaughlin was elegant and polished, raising Matviitsuk with ease and a lovely lift which saw her clinging to him like a child, their unison enhancing their fated connection. This sensitivity was echoed with choral music, providing a contrast to an aggressive performance by Van Der Hombergh, in which a series of athletic leaps and flips found balance in a brilliantly controlled handstand into a low crouch. Anger and rebellion against the oppressive domination of the string was a confined to a male dancer, although Draplo executed a breathtakingly dynamic sequence in which the other dancers gradually moved the red cords closer and closer around her. Until she was moving with the ropes surrounding her like a red corset, Draplo was fierce and intensely physical, this ferocity echoed by strobe lighting at the end of her piece as she seemed to question her existence inside the cage of string.
The first half was dramatic and ever-changing, keeping the audience on their toes as we were taken on a journey of love, passion, loneliness, anger and fear. The second ‘Part’ was a short film by Tommy Rowe called ‘Reflections’ which saw two girls questioned about the existence of fate, whether it is just a reassurance, and if you can believe in fate if you don’t have faith. The film broke up the dance performances and was simply and elegantly filmed in the style of a documentary, the intense emotion of one of the speakers was almost uncomfortable to watch, and one girl’s hollow ‘Yeah’ to the question ‘Does stuff just happen?’ seemed despondent and hopeless. In an interesting contrast to the vibrant energy of the dancers, the film was a different way of exploring the notion of fate, examined in the light of the student election results.
The film suddenly cut to a dance sequence, Part Three of the show called ‘Imagine Two Summers’ choreographed by Mariella Fortune – Ely and featuring Youngeun Lee, Van Der Hombergh and Lindsey Karmen. The piece had a distinct narrative in opposition to the random exploration of ‘Attachment’, in which a love triangle caused much destruction. Opening with Lana Del Ray was a beautiful collection of highly charged movements, a highlight of which was a sequence that saw Lee flinging her arms around Van Der Hombergh with compelling strength and control. Phase two of ‘Two Summers’ saw the use of tables and chairs around which Lee and Karmen mimed separate lives, with Van Der Hombergh moving between the two with an ease that induced contempt for his deception and sympathy for the oblivious girls. The miming of two relationships was threaded through with lighthearted movements in which a fun waltz and chasing sequence gradually broke down into dark realisation of the boy’s dishonesty. The performance then progressed through phases of despair, anger, helplessness and optimism, each phase rolling smoothly onto the next and the dancers seamlessly transitioning from sharp, frantic movements into slow, measured segments.
‘Imagine Two Summers’ was packed with different stages of this toxic love triangle, each part was intelligently crafted and the difference between each was enough to maintain the focus of the audience, helped by the great choices in music: Amy Winehouse, Jessie Ware and Lana Del Rey set their melancholic, euphoric and sultry tones respectively. A beautiful synchronised arrangement between Karmen and Lee was choreographed to Joni Mitchell, in which their discovery of a life without their love was played out in perfect unison. The Boy walked through their dance twice, disrupting their symmetry only for a few counts before they resumed their bright dance. Another highlight was the duet between Karmen and Van Der Hombergh, a challenging piece in its abstraction and restraint. There seemed to be a hopelessness in the series of lifts and floor work that provoked questions about the price we pay for love, and how much of a role fate plays in the finding and losing of it.
Fate: In Three Parts was a highly original performance. The dancers were breathtaking, as was the innovative set design and sensitive, expressive choreography. The latter deeply considered what fate means to individuals and the challenging, peaceful and exhilarating interpretations prove that dance has an impact far beyond that of mere moments.