He Who Falls is an hour-long movement piece combining dance and circus skills. Six performers negotiate a moving platform as it spins, balances, lifts, dangles and swings. It’s both a feat of engineering and an opportunity to test the performers’ skill to new limits.
Beyond this, the meeting of human and machine (in what at times does feel like a kind of neo-Bauhaus project) offers the potential for some really stunning visual poetry. The movements of the performers are responsive to and often counterposed against the movements of the platform – creating tensions and visual complexities that are as unusual as they are absorbing.
There is an element of storytelling – but mostly it’s of an abstract kind, dictated by the challenges posed by the movements of the platform and the performers’ efforts to face them. The flat, mildly ironic demeanour of the six dancers gives the whole thing a contemporary and comedic edge.
The London International Mime Festival have a habit of picking up these French companies who combine mechanical sets with movement to create visual spectacles (Compagnie 111 and Compagnie MPTA in particular). It’s a way of working that (to the best of my knowledge) has no counterpart in the UK – but should do. It elevates the form – adding scale and complexity, whilst also (oddly) humanising the dancers.