Theo Clinkard: Chalk/Of Land and Tongue

Tramway, Glasgow

Mary Brennan


Theo Clinkard's programme dedication - to his dear friend, the late Adrian Howells - quotes Howells's watchword "It's all allowed". His choreography in this DIG (Dance International Glasgow) double bill actively embraces the spirit of those words, not least in discarding audience/performer boundaries: we're seated on two sides of a small white dance-floor so that the work is always physically within our reach, even if some of the metaphysical complexities take pondering after-thoughts to fully appreciate.

Chalk - Clinkard's solo in cahoots with on-stage musician James Keane - is a cunningly crafted response to the cliffs near his home at Beachy Head. It opens with both men teetering to hold their balance on chunks of chalk. As the piece progresses, that larky teetering shades into something darker, with Clinkard's brinkmanship phases of flailing or falling a reminder that Beach Head is a notorious landmark for suicide attempts. When Keane crunches celery, adding the cracking to a looping soundscape, it's not just the ancient fossil bones in the chalk he's referencing...

Of Land and Tongue is like an oddball word game where dancers' bodies, actions - interactions with us - offer meanings of words that elude precise English equivalents. It's kept playful, with all five performers ready to chat or goof around - Sofie Burgoyne would manage her balletic moves better if only clutzy Francis Christeller wouldn't try to partner her. But there is a serious undertow to the hospitality on the picnic table, Lauren Potter's sudden solo of release before shouldering her bundle of wood again, the smell of wet turf and the final cat's cradle of twine that links the dancers and us: namely that communication is not tied to words alone.