Live art performance - Joanne
Choreographer/Live Artist /Practitioner
Read below HTBA Critique:
Time and Tidal Flow - Jo Ashbridge 'Full Time Indecisive'
Saturday 26th April, 2pm (15 minute performance) 3pm (15 minute performance)
As the audience walked in to the performance space, Jo was already in
her opening pose - stood on a chair on the small stage, cradling a dozen
eggs in her skirt. One by one she picked them out and dropped them from
the height of her chair, letting them smash into a hanging basket on
the floor. Smooth easy listening accompanied, as Jo played out a sequence
of gesture-based movement (dance) vignettes, her serene facial expression
fixed in a half smile throughout.
In ‘Full Time Indecisive’, Jo could neither be pigeon-holed
as a dancer, an actress or even a story teller, as she flitted through
all of these personas with ease. Working with her props of eggs, two
chairs and armfuls of baskets, she moved about the space - twirling,
posing, idling and acting out minute narratives and moments of seemingly
spontaneous movement. The movement was at times lusciously romantic,
stylized and rehearsed yet simultaneously rushed, slapstick and statuesque.
Jo began what seemed to be a complete choreographed phrase of work, to
stop abruptly after just a few moments. She dropped her props, moved
to a new position on stage and started a completely different act in
a new style. For example from nervously throwing and catching eggs, higher
and higher, on breaking one her focus immediately switched to balancing
a chair on its side using only her foot. This abrupt ending and change
in direction re-occurred throughout the performance, demonstrating Jo’s ‘indecision’ in
just quite what and how to perform.
The soundtrack was played alternatively on a mobile phone in one of the
egg baskets, an ‘i-dock’ and a turntable. It included two
key tracks: I Only Have Eyes for You written by Al Dublin & Harry
Warren, sung by Art Garfunkel and Ella Fitzgerald, and Waters of March
written by Antonio Carlos Jobim and sung by Art Garfunkel. The music
evoked both a sense of nostalgia and humour that complemented Jo’s
movements, as it cheerily clunked along in the background regardless
of how little or small her gestures were. By adding an over-dramatic
soundtrack, slightly out of key with the events happening on stage, gave
a surreal overtone to the whole performance, almost evoking a trance
like state in the audience.
The surreal mood and musical theatre style glimmered through the gaps
in the fragments and was at the very core of what made the piece work.
Bouncing her ideas around, with a nod to cabaret and the west end magical
ingredients of what it is to be true 'performer', Jo had a grin about
her that gave the whole show a bit of the old 'razzmatazz' . Pulling
away the layers of narrative, the set-design, lighting, theme and even
focus of a performance, it is amazing what a cheeky smile and some raw
honesty can achieve.
The songs were repeated throughout and eventually merged and overlapped
at the climax. Jo circled the audience once and finished the piece with
this pinnacle moment of ‘indecision’ - over which song to
chose and just how to exit. All of this indecision added up to a predictably
fragmented performance, yet with clear starts and endings to each vignette.
Trying to connect each of the segments truly would be a ridiculous task,
and probably pointless, as Jo points out, the performance shows the theme
of indecision in a ‘loose and conceptual way’. What was particularly
interesting in Jo’s acting out of her own indecision in this way,
was that through the numerous ‘artistic ideas’ she shared
with her audience, the pressure she put on herself to give a clear, entertaining
and succinct performance, was itself on display. Her reluctance to disregard
any one idea, yet simultaneously her dissatisfaction in presenting any
singular idea became a frustration yet a fascination for both performer
In a cultural climate where droves of regular
theatre attendees hand over their ready cash to see well polished shows – Hull Time Based
Arts created a niche opportunity in programming a festival of fresh live
art and contemporary performance. Jo made the most of this opportunity,
bravely performing nothing but her own indecision. Despite the lack of
narrative or interconnecting elements that could be read as a ‘whole’,
with a clear artistic statement, her performance remained playful and
unapologetic in its simple staging and 'indecisive' content. The use
of music and the innocence of the indecisive ‘acts’, lent
themselves to comedy as opposed to torturous or mundane acts of frustrating
pointlessness. They came from somewhere genuine, and this authenticity
carried the piece, keeping it light and simple. In this sense, Jo can
be proud of the statement that ‘Full Time Indecision’ makes – which
is that our own individual complexities and everyday interactions in
life work and play, are at the very core of what fascinates and captivates
us. She tackled her own indecision through performing not one, but many
of her own artistic thoughts, and through this honesty, gave the audience
live moments of comedy, boredom, beauty and bizarre brilliance.
When approached with an open mind, ‘Full Time Indecision’ provided
a heavenly spot of relief from our heavily saturated, mediatized and
hectic urban lifestyles. It was playful and honest, letting us step outside
ourselves for a moment to take a look at our own inflamed ambitions and
dissatisfactions in life, desires to be ‘perfect’ and accept
out shortcomings. The performance dealt with an aspect of our very human
condition and taught us once more how to laugh at ourselves. The work
was raw in its very ‘indecisiveness’ with no element over
rehearsed or re-worked to the point of no return. The performance was
well suited to the Hull Time Based Arts Time & Tidal Flow festival
that had change, experimentation and development at its core. The performance
was the epitome of the philosophy ‘learning through play’ and
its experimentation and unwillingness to be ‘fixed’ made
for a changeable and transient fifteen minutes, that was a delight in
and amongst the three day festival.
This performance took place as part of Time & Tidal Flow a free festival
of new work and Live Art from Hull Time Based Arts and New Work Yorkshire.
Joanna Loveday is a writer based in Yorkshire, specialising in writing
for performance and live art. www.joannaloveday.blogspot.com Contact:
© Joanna Loveday 2008 – seek
permission before reproducing this text.
Ashbridge - Qualifications
Liverpool John Moores University
09/04-06/06 BA (Hons) Dance Studies (Physical Theatre).
Subjects include; Ballet, Choreography, Contact Improvisation, Contemporary
Technique, Contextual Studies, Dance and Technology, Performance Project, Physical
A Graduate Scholarship was
received from Liverpool John Moores University on the basis of showing
outstanding potential in the dance profession. This was recognised
through a committed attitude toward the course, and extra-curricular
activities conducted in preparation for future career (see Work Experience,
Skills and Art Worker qualification below).
08/05-04/06. Cartwheels - OCN (Level 3) Community Art worker Training.
Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts
09/03-06/04. Certificate of Higher Education - Community Arts (dance).
University of Salford
09/01-06/03. Higher National Diploma Physical Theatre/Dance.
09/98-06/01. B-Tec National Diploma Performing Arts.
A-Level; English, Theatre Studies. GCSE; Art, Geography, Sociology