As part of the Czech Showcase 2017, presented by the Czech Centre at the Edinburgh Fringe during their longer Scottish Czech season, Prague’s 420People give us Wind-Up: a high energy, very physical, contemporary dance work, choreographed by one of their own dancers and founding members, Václav Kuneš. This is a cut down version, in as much as the videos and images of the original have sadly had to be taken out, no doubt due to the technical limitations of the venue.
The dancers are very good, and do have the necessary vitality to convey the sense of energy accumulating to the point of explosion that is at the heart of Wind-Up. Actions are sometimes very repetitive (accumulation), suitably accompanied by Amos Ben-Tal’s music, which includes the perpetual ticking of alarm clocks that burst into insistent, loud ringing (explosion).
However, there are a few problems with this work. First, there seems little reason to have the dancers on the stage as the audience enter the auditorium. A small point perhaps, but this device has become a tiresome cliché that only works if it clearly enhances the theatre of the work, and if the performers can pull it off without it looking too “staged”. Unfortunately for Wind-Up, neither is the case.
Secondly, the inclusion of humour (another sort of wind-up) does not work very well. Not only does it integrate poorly with the rest of the work, but the comic timing of the performers is not tight enough to make it genuinely funny: it feels very contrived. The patter with the palettes at the beginning, for example, just serves to suck the energy out of the piece before its even begun, rather than launching it into orbit.
Finally, and most importantly, Wind-Up lacks strong and clear choreographic ideas in general. The energy and ability of the dancers goes some way to blurring over this, but the piece tends to drift and ramble without much purpose or direction.
420People are an interesting and talented company, obviously trying to deliver something cutting edge. However, it is often forgotten that to be cutting edge necessitates a process of exploration—of trial and error. This is a Good Thing. This production may not quite reach its target, but at least it is on the path to somewhere new and worthwhile.