Riccardo Buscarini’s ‘boys’ look kind of like they’re the partial splitting of an atom. Wu, Cheng-An is a cat-like escape artist who ducks away and out from under any configuration of bodies that try to entrap him. His slides and jumps, and the knotted cunning of the others, is highly engaging for both eye and mind. Buscarini is alert to them and their needs, creating between them a cohesive unit despite his contradictory directions to either connect or find ‘more space in between.’ At one point he says, ‘Yeah, guys, just put a cage around him.’ And then it’s ‘Strong arms, strong shapes’ or ‘Henry, less ass! Just lower your bum a bit.’ He’s relying upon their physical ingenuity and, of course, his own eye for composition. The moves are light and clean but definite rather than soft. ‘I can’t block him any more,’ Petros declares good-naturedly. ‘You’re free!’ At which Wu, Cheng-An flaps bird-like arms.

I leave the Founders Studio as three of the men are going through their paces, ‘marking’ (as dance parlance would have it) their moves and momentarily sans any connection with each other at all. I go in search of more studio work but without luck: Guo Lei’s group finished early and Su, Wei-Chia’s is nowhere to be found.

At the reception desk I meet Zhao, Zhibo. She tells me that working with Dam Van Huynh is hard ‘because he speaks so fast and gives you a lot to do.’  On the other hand being in the studio with Guo Lei, a former teacher of hers at Beijing Dance Academy, is pretty easy because she knows literally where he’s coming from. His piece for ArtsCross draws upon a Chinese folk dance tradition. ‘We already know the step [he wants] before he says it,’ avows Zhao, Zhibo. The exception is Katie Cambridge whom Zhibo accurately – and sympathetically – pegs as a fish out of water. ‘She doesn’t know our language or dance culture,’ Zhibo says and, as a result, ‘there’s too much stress for her.’ This brief encounter veers away from ArtsCross as I’m asked for advice about whether Zhibo ought to opt for heading Brighton or Windsor tomorrow on the dancers’ one day off. (I recommend the former as, of the pair of destinations, it’s the one I can actually have an opinion about. I’ll have to ask which she chose when I see her tonight – if I remember to do so – at the premiere.)

Resting between rehearsals on the landing above reception is Azzurra Ardovini. She is, not surprisingly based on my observations, finding working with Ho, Hsiao-Mei a challenge mainly because the choreographer is ‘sometimes not clear about what she wants.’ It is, says Ardovini, difficult to know what to give her especially when asked to come up with movement before a motivation for it is in place. As for Zhao, Liang’s elastic band world, she says, ‘Sometimes it’s got a life of its own, so it’s quite complicated to get it right and smooth.’ Ardovini calls him ‘the guru,’ and reveals that there are plans afoot for one big piece of elastic that his entire cast will use. All of the choreographers, she says, want to have emotions in their work, but ‘their way to get to that can sometimes be different from what I would do or think.’ As for the translators she says, ‘Without them we could’ve never done it.’

Finally I meet on the stairs Katie Cambridge, who confirms that the first few days of working with Guo Lei were indeed hard for her. ‘He’s very quiet and didn’t speak a lot,’ she says, ‘and because I’m the only English person in his group whoever’s translating holds a lot of power.’ Like Ella Mesma and, I’m sure, many of the other Western dancers, Cambridge has picked up not just words but has begun to discern the meanings behind them: ‘It’s interesting how much I can now understand by the quality of how he speaks.’

Physically, too, she’s ‘moving into different places’ in ArtsCross. The mask work Guo Lei requires his cast to use allows for no peripheral vision, while the masks themselves have no strings; instead they’re kept in place internally by biting down on a piece jutting out from inside the mask itself. Cambridge is highly conscientious about her duties and has no intention of sticking out in performance for all the wrong reasons. ‘I don’t want to look European,’ she says, adding, ‘It shouldn’t look like it’s being danced by a mixed company.’

Needing to improvise at times within a form that‘s completely new to Cambridge has been interesting, too. ‘It’s quite invigorating not to understand anything and just be moving,’ she says. Gradually she’s been acquiring some ownership of the dance as a whole and her part in it. ‘You want to be involved, but as an English dancer you just have to let it go and switch off sometimes. Otherwise it’s too exhausting.’ As a member of the London-based company Tavaziva Dance she’ no stranger to working hard and with full-throttle dynamics. ArtCross, however, is a different animal altogether. As she sums it up, ‘It can feel like you’re doing a full day of rehearsal in just three hours.’  Shoving any tiredness aside, though, and it seems a safe bet that what’s happening here for her and everyone who’s a part of ArtsCross London is an invaluable multi-cultural learning curve.


After-the-Fact 3: Group A

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