11 March 2014

The Falling Song is an ambitious and wonderfully weird piece of dance theatre. Ripe with experimental choreography and a hint of self-possession, the one-act work calls to mind the narrative ingenuity of Eleanor Catton's The Rehearsal, navigating its central theme - the subtle differences between flying and falling - through a series of fragmented scenes with varying registers and degrees of theatricality. A recurring motif of apples, with their connotations of gravity and original sin, underscores the concept of consequence implicit in the piece.

A manifest sense of physicality dominates the choreography, which sees the all-male cast constantly swooping and bounding around the stage, exploring all possible pairings and manoeuvring through some unorthodox partnerwork. The performers display a range of talent between them: Carl Harrison is fluid and animated in his every move, while Eddie Kay impresses with powerful core strength: meanwhile Omar Gordon's classical training is visible in his crisp, smooth lines, and Jesse Kovarsky turns heads with his effervescent mien.

With two ladders and a handful of mattresses at their disposal, the dancers traverse spaces high and low, though their reliance on these props is thankfully kept to a minimum. In fact, the most impressive moves of The Falling Song take place sans scenic accompaniment, the dancing a sufficient narrative device of its own; still, the ladders do aid some arresting moments, including one unexpected bellyflop from the top rung that drew audible gasps from the audience.

The piece veers in tone as it progresses, shifting from farcical to grave in surprisingly organic fashion. The funniest parts are allotted to Kovarsky, who whips out a falsetto for a brassy rendition of "I'm Through With Love" and later dazzles (quite literally) in a sequin teal waistcoat as he mimes a jazzy figure skating routine. It's the solemn scenes that resonate the most, however - the grounded quartet performed in tribal unison, for example, or the phrase in which two performers dance an entire sequence neck-to-neck, one whispering the dark, subconscious thoughts of the other.

Music assumes a central role in the piece and is incorporated in several veins. There's a children's choir that shuffles on periodically to fill the stage with euphonious song, its tiny members recruited to push apples around the stage in a climactic finale. A slapping phrase in which dancers use their bodies as instruments also proves an interesting addition. That said, it's George Higgs, the show's live musician, who drew the most applause with his fantastical and artfully operated musical machine, a clangorous hodgepodge of bike wheels and wind chimes and cowbells that smacks of steampunk oddity. The title of the work's parent initiative, Incredibly Rare, feels especially relevant in light of his contribution.