“Go with the flow…”
Since setting up as a new venue in 2010, The Print Room has pulled together programmes covering a wide range of artistic disciplines. So whilst the following months sees live sculpture making and plays from Brian Friel and Amy Herzog, one can currently take in an exhibition of photography and an international dance premiere in Hubert Essakow’s Flow. A musing on the unique properties of water and the different relationships that we have with it in its varying states, it creates a dance experience that is immersive in more ways than one.
Waterproof bibs, not dissimilar to binbags with neck holes, are handed out as the audience enter the West London studio, seated around the edge of the intimate space with its raised performance area and a column of sheer fabric in the centre. And from here, the five dancers work their way through their way through water in all of its forms, from the frozen tranquillity of the ice-bound opening sequence through to the exhilarating energy of a powerful storm with rain falling from sprinklers and the dancers splashing so gleefully, you’ll be glad of your binbag!
Essakow’s choreography ebbs and flows beautifully through the different sequences, pulling together different combinations of the company as movement ripples through them, across them, out of them. Thomasin Gülgeç‘s measured solo from within the ice has a beautiful grace which stands out and all five impress in the Vapour and Gas section, fading in and out of sight as mist fills the space yet forms a kinetic connection between them all. With Tom Dixon’s elegant design and Peter Gregson’s elegiac score blending piano and cello with electronics, much of Flow combines delicacy and intensity to evocative, compelling effect.
But the show over-reaches itself when it ventures away from choreography. Stories of the dancers’ own experiences with water at least have a personal edge but the action is also interspersed with projections of hard-hitting statistics and witty bon mots. These just feel forced into the flow of the evening, alternately straining for a gravity or levity that doesn’t always feel warranted, given how emotive so much of the dancing is, and simply ends up trying too hard.
And it just doesn’t need to. The pleasure that comes from the fevered turbulence of the tempest is genuinely thrilling, even as the dancers thrash and splash with passion and intensity, and is soon followed by the gorgeously slow fluidity of the calm after the storm, a wistful sequence that melts away into the ether for a hushed but moving finale.