Phoebe Neville's choreography brings one back to the original idea of modern dance as the emanation of an individual sensibility. The dances she showed at the Dance Project this weekend were projections of her self - of her idiosyncratic look, physique, way of moving and temperament.
Neville's dancing, as well as that of her partner, John Dayger, made one particularly conscious of th solidity of the human body, but at the same time, of its malleability. Corporeal shapes evolved with deliberate slowness, so that the whole process of transformation was continually legible. Sustained positions and exchanged glances seemed as much a part of choreography as the movement itself. There's a marvelous sense of inexorability about the unfolding of the dance imagery, and the movement vocabulary is original at every turn.
In "Ladydance," Neville's slow strangely rolling walk gave way to flamenco-like outbursts of stamping and whiplash turns, suggesting the emotional tempests beneath the surface of ladylike decorum. Sexual politics was the theme of "Cartouche," a duet in which Neville molded her body under, around, and over Day-ger's in poses of submission, dependency, and domination.
To the music of Meredith Monk's primitive-sounding keening in "Triptych," Neville presented a threefold portrait of a woman in torment. In the first part, she appeared blind-folding as if in reaction to invisible electrodes. In the second part - a true tour-de-force - she sagged, crouched, leaned slumped, and twisted against a wall, a soul in terminal anguish.
In the most ambitious composition, "Oran," a Wueth-like painting by Phillip Hipwell - a tranquil landscape with ominous undertones - was hung at the back of the stage. Tapes of traditional bagpipe music at either side alternated between melancholy droning and sprightly jigs. The dance, as precisely and forcefully performed by Neville and Dayger, was a study in togetherness and isolation, traversing at the same time a life cycle of toil strife, joy, love, pain and resignation. In one of the most memorable passages - a king of pas de deux of tenderness - the dancers' interlaced arms form a moving cowl, encircling their mutually adoring faces.All told, a remarkable program.