On Wednesday 11th March 2015, Pilgrim played as the second part of a double bill at the Nottingham Contemporary, following Inside Opulence. Both were part of Dance4’s Nottdance Festival, and Pilgrim excitingly brought nationally and internationally acclaimed Yorkshire choreographer Lucy Suggate to Nottingham. Her inclusion in a festival that strives to bring together a collective of international artists and new genres that would otherwise normally go unseen also made perfect sense.
Suggate’s ‘unique irreverent style’ has been gathering attention for the past decade now. And with her work she aims to explore the transformative effect that music has, not only on the subject, but also on the viewer. She is equally interested in how it can create altered states of consciousness, and induce a psychological journey of understanding… which might more appropriately be described as a pilgrimage. Thanks to this approach, Pilgrim manages to question the very meaning of dance, especially when what we see is combined with electronic musician James Holden’s ‘mystical sound scores.’
The performance poses various questions which resonate beyond the shallow belief that dance is merely to entertain, showing it instead to be a powerful tool which can be manipulated and used. This power is then written throughout the dancers’ renditions, producing a knock on effect for the audience. It leaves them overwhelmed and gasping for air, just as Suggate is during her vigorous routine. Right from the very start she storms into the steam-pumped arena as if preparing for battle – scanning the audience as she goes.
We were seated on benches before her, some even on the floor; and her cold stare pierced into each one of us individually. Suggate makes you feel personally identified, our gaze somehow hypnotically locked onto hers. And for added effect electrical sound effects then filter into the room through large speakers, at which point Suggate moves in hypermotion. Like a juggernaut accumulating energy from the crowd, she somehow maintains this energy for the next hour or so. We feel the pulsating soundtrack increase in pace too, creating a rise in energy that magically allows for her transitions from almost robotic jerks to elegant ballet-style glides.
These dancing recalibrations also respond to shifts in the themes which Suggate is exploring. At first, all we see is a performer in a space, her movements, her physical body. But as the show progresses, and her movements become more complex, our understanding also widens and branches out. This increases the complexity of our own contemplation, and causes us to ponder over some of the deeper meanings that her performance evokes.
Suggate manages to take her viewers on a journey through modern dance with Pilgrim. And by seeming to hold the focus and gaze of every single member of the audience she produces not only a remarkable performance, but also a deeply personal experience that truly engrains itself in your memory. So isn’t it about time we all started doing communal dance pilgrimages?