Thursday, 21 March 2013

Chaos and Contingency

Usually, dance that attempts to explain science is a disaster. The complexity of scientific knowledge is difficult enough to express through language. A single formula can represent a chapter's worth of assumptions. Movement is abstract. It can evoke multiple interpretations. While science is not uncomfortable with plurality, it is most powerful when clear.
Chaos and Contingency, however, uses the beauty of dance to illustrate a series of simple mathematical concepts. Although a palindrome is embedded into the choreography, and the elegance of the formations depend on precise numerical grouping, it is the elaboration on the basic idea of fractal patterning that is most obvious throughout. Fractals are most popular when reduced to psychedelic postcards. In Chaos, Janis Claxton reveals how these are generated.
The basic movement vocabulary is exact and not spectacular. In the Kelvingrove, viewed from above, the floor is divided into sections. The dancers move through these sections, marking out the stage's geography and blossoming into complex patterns. Yet the simple rules of the dance are always evident. Claxton simply allows the gentle stye to iterate its possibilities.
The style is sparse and caters little to gender difference. In place of flashy male leaps or subtle female nuances, the movement is almost restful and consistent. In measured display, the dancers plot the various patterns inspired by eight bodies in space. And while there is no traditional partner work, the integration of the company is complete.
Both male and female dancers have the gentle authority of tango experts. The occasional burst of solo activity is supported by a precision of group movement. More than an exercise in mathematical form, it does reveal how repetition can build complex narratives and evokes the subtle rise and fall of complex organisations. Without boasting of its intelligence or hooking abstract ideas onto a more personal story, Chaos and Contingency is a technical triumph.

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