Alain Robbe-Grillet’s 1957 novel La Jalousie, or Jealousy (though it could also be translated to mean ‘Venetian blinds’), has received a new translation into the media of art and dance at The Print Room in Notting Hill. The small-scale theatre and arts space is relatively new, set up in 2010. Since then it has promoted itself as a multi-disciplinary space. This, its latest comission, stands steadily in line with this ethos.

Jealousy, © Andre Portasio
Jealousy,
© Andre Portasio

Jealousy is a collaboration between sculptor Laurence Kavanagh, and four choreographers: Daniel Hay-Gordon, Hubert Essakow, James Cousins and Morgann Runacre-Temple. The piece reverses the normal hierarchy of a dance work. Kavanagh is not relegated to the position of set-designer but instead is promoted to director, responsible for tying the varying strands together, each of which is choreographed in response to his art. Jealousy is both an art work and a dance work; both a performance and an exhibition.

The night begins in this vein. The audience take their seats in the round, perched inches from Kavanagh’s angular design. The lights illuminate each part of the unoccupied space in turn: a fiery red square in the centre; a cluster of chairs, the seats distorted from their frames; a room viewed through Venetian blinds and two simple windows. Kavanagh’s work is symmetrical. Each room has a replica across from it, allowing every space to be viewed from multiple angles. The set has movement too: the windows, blinds and railings are hung from the ceiling and swing gently as they are knocked.

Daniel Hay-Gordon, choreographer and soloist, begins by capitalising on this movement. He sways in time with the hangings, and turns as they turn. Dressed in red, he represents the husband, the unseen and unnamed protagonist of Robbe-Grillet’s novel. He leaves to walk in the audience’s space. This is his world, viewed from his perspective.

Two dancers enter as the wife, in white, and dance a duet indicative of some form of inner struggle. One aspect of her seems timid, staying low and leaning on her partner, who cuts a stronger, colder figure.

Then comes the lover, in grey. The wife and the lover dance with icy indifference. Seated, they toy with gesture and focus, avoiding each others’ gazes constantly. Mostly clinical but sometimes more sensual, the duet never touches on passion. It speaks of passive-aggression but also of dependency; the precise positioning of the arms is occasionally broken with sweeping lifts and weight-sharing and one scene in which the wife never touches the floor, stepping only on the now supportive lover. There is also a sense that he holds her back. She reaches towards the outer edges of the space where the audience, and the husband, reside, but is thwarted and pulled back by the lover.

The husband, usually isolated and alone, occasionally plays voyeur to their encounters. The coldness that had permeated their interaction takes on a new direction, towards him. His movement is anxious and odd and his demeanour is strikingly human in comparison with the lover and the wife, who are direct and precise and almost robotic. Every part is danced with extreme clarity. No movement is rough or unconsidered.

The space lends a lot to this work. The proximity of the audience to the dancers is powerful and engaging. At times it feels like they’re staring directly into your eyes, and simple movement that could have been lost on a bigger stage is given a new significance. The effect of the collaboration is also not to be underestimated. Whilst both choreography and design are skilful in their own right, without their combined interest each would risk appearing standard and lifeless. In combination they achieve far more.

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