Review from: Assembly Roxy, Edinburgh Festival Fringe; 5th August 2019
Limb(e)s is an hour of figurative aerial dance from Gabrielle Martin and Jeremiah Hughes of Canadian company Ci. The movement quality is often grotesquely beautiful, the lighting choices are bold and test the audience’s comfort, and the overall composition choices are oblique. There are some moments of distinct symbolism, but any narrative inspiration remains in the background; the clawed hands covering faces, and the trussed and tangled bodies give me a directionless sense of struggle and pain, but no distinct story to hook these sensations onto. Limb(e)s is a pretty dark show, with a lighting concept to match (except for the moments when glaring lights beam stingingly into our eyes).
The apparatus is a triple loop of black cord, each loop hanging a little lower than the next from a central rigging point. The aerial cords are echoed in the larger length of rope that gets hauled across the stage at certain points and the thinner black cords knotted across the performers’ torsos in an elegant suggestion of kinbaku bondage from costume designer Coline Dubois-Gryspeert. A soundscape of industrial crackles and long electronic bass notes is infused for parts with luscious melodic chords in original composition from Nicolas Bernier. Set pieces of physical imagery sit along side a more improvised-looking style of dance from Martin and Hughes, on the ground and in the air, in solo or duet. The show is formed from a series of segments, differentiated by abrupt, dramatic shifts between dark and light, their structure seemingly abstracted rather than episodic.
I tend to avoid reading publicity blurbs before going into a show, but in this case I think it would have helped. The work is presented as a destabilising illustration of our ‘inherent dependency as social beings, the temporality of comfort in another, and the inevitable solitude at the core of our mortality.’ In light of what I witnessed, this makes sense.
In the section of the choreography most closely relating to conventional cradle technique – with Hughes inverted as catcher and Martin twisting and wrapping her limbs about his in suspended poses below – we see some impressive and unusual shapes. Between the flashed transitions, Limb(e)s is a show of perpetual motion.
I was having a conversation yesterday with the Brisbane based production and advocacy organisation Cluster Arts, discussing different forms of circus and different ways of watching. The term ‘art-house circus’ came up and, for me, Limb(e)s is an example of what this might mean. I can slip into the same mode of viewing as I might at an art gallery, allowing my attention to slip in and out, appreciating form and aesthetic qualities as much as contemplating potential, non-fixed meanings. Even if I took away no tangible revelations during the live event, echoes of its imagery will return to haunt my thoughts.