London’s contemporary dance conservatoires produce a cohort of well-equipped and well-versed choreographers and dancers each year. Graduate showcases on offer during summer are in excessive abundance in London. In particular, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, a school in Lewisham, is host to burgeoning choreographers with a vibrant penchant for interdisciplinary collaboration. Katie Serridge, now graduate and alumni of Trinity Laban, choreographed a piece named ‘Dear Little Man’. The work was presented in the Bonnie Bird Theatre, Trinity Laban’s in-house dance-specific theatre, and tackled themes of the autistic perception. The research process was informed through drawings by children with autism, in order to offer an insight into the autistic lens.
Photo by @skamletz.photography.
Play and curiosity were modes of movement employed, which poignantly communicated the themes at play; this emphasised life through the lens of an autistic child. The dancers entered from each wing and corner of the stage, establishing a sense of community and union from the outset as they came together to form a circle. The dancers began to run in a circle, accumulating speed as they went, however, a specific quirk embellished the dancers: their right arms were extended as they ran. Serridge’s focus on the dancers’ corporeal disposition was a facilitatory measure, moreover, a way in which the audience could experience how others see the world. This extension of the arm for some could be interpreted as an omnidirectional antenna: enjoying, navigating and processing as much as the stimuli in their world has to offer them, as they run.
The dancers navigating the space en masse seemed almost machine-like, however, Serridge was able to inflect this angular and mechanical mise-en-scène with very humanesque elements. The act of seeking out connections and relationships, and the primal and innate yearning for company, were qualities that ensured that the atmosphere on stage stayed fluid and malleable. The dancers moved with absolute precision, but nevertheless, humanity remained; this is a notion that pervades many contemporary dance narratives.
Dichotomies between different human qualities ensured that the piece’s dimensionality and concept was clear and accessible for the audience. Again, movement quality and dynamics helped to realise this. Grandiose, all-encompassing movements stood in direct opposition to stillness and calm through minimalism and moments of tenderness. Cartwheels in unison, each executed with a singular arm, were abruptly intercepted by a warm and gentle afterthought—almost an ode to the contemporary chronicles of self-care and other coping mechanisms we use today.
The dancers allowed themselves to be tender, and as the ferocity of said cartwheels dissolved, this liquid movement then caressed the dancers. Small, feeble and vulnerable; the dancers assumed this form in the aftermath of all grandiosity and bodily expansion. Once more, Serridge’s vision isn’t lost or confused. Her programme notes state that “The dancers embody the space how an autistic child may view the world: its details, its constituent parts and finally, the whole”. A moment of self-nature portrays this well—the isolated, tender moment is executed simultaneously, and everything angular and linear melts into one tender gentle organism.
Edited by Alexia McDonald, Head Digital Editor