Unlimited: Marc Brew Company: MayBe

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In an international co-creation between Natalia Mallo, Gisele Calazans (Brazil) and Glasgow-based Marc Brew, MayBe took place at Tramway’s Unlimited Festival in Glasgow on 17-18 September. Review by Colin Hambrook.

Photograph of Gisele Calazans stretched out across the back of Marc Brew's wheelchair as they hold hands in MayBe

Marc Brew Company’s MayBe. Photograph Susan Hay.

MayBe is a dance piece crossing boundaries, internationally and artistically using digital screen and lighting interventions choreographed to live music.

Marc Brew Company are renowned for creating large statements and MayBe pushes the dancers’ narrative-inspired work to new limits of invention, using multidisciplinary arts to create a polished spectacle. Imbued with a raw passion and wild-fire movement, the piece echoes the sensibility of an Almodovar movie referencing the stoic overlaid narration − within the described elements − that is a signature of the Spanish film-maker’s oeuvre.

MayBe incorporates a blend of movement, sound, and prominent lighting to amplify the stage, which in turn mirrors dance themes of Pina Bausch’s expressionist Tanztheater, and the vitality of Spanish dance, which are both frequent reference points within the Spanish film-maker’s work. There is a descriptive line spoken and displayed on-screen which acts as a pivotal moment in the twists and turns of love. ’Nothing in the world could be more beautiful’; this also echoes the melodrama emblematic of Almodovar within its simplicity.

The process for devising MayBe began at a residency at the Museum of Image and Sound in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and so from the outset the project was built around Latin themes, impelling Marc Brew to progress the sense of urgency and syncopated beat, which is his trademark.

Brew and Calazan’s dance relationship is a love story of extremes; the more they move and meld together the more they are impelled to disperse, separate atoms under the blazing heat of huge wall-mounted spotlights casting them under a chiaroscuro sun. There is an atmosphere and an emotion in the way the piece is lit that amounts to a third performer, perhaps signifying fate?

Live music by Natalia Mallo on guitar, vocal and electronic programming, Edward Cohen on piano and Liam Chapman on drums invigorates the show, bringing the performance to life in a way that recorded music never can. At turns melancholy and frenetic, the music and song are paced to tell a story of impossible encounters.

The inclusion of audio-described elements and large projected scenes creates a satisfying finesse to the piece as a whole. Ultimately the work is for anyone who has ever fallen in love, playing with the intensity of those emotions moving between rapture where the two become one − to the stark and barren desolation of separation.

Maybe the love story will reach a positive conclusion and the heights of emotion will reach a point of equanimity…or maybe not. Mallo’s powerful quieter songs − largely sung in Spanish with projected translations − give the piece a depth and rootedness that again give the work a more universal edge.

Brew’s floor work in particular is breath-taking in its fluidity. More than anything MayBe contains an athleticism at turns dangerous and irresistible. In different sequences the two dancers support each other’s weight seemingly effortlessly. At one point Calazans swims on Brew’s back and at another she lifts him as if he were a feather. In one of the most spectacular sequences they form a cross as Calazans extends herself in a horizontal position, across the back of Brew’s wheelchair.

Love is never easy, and in this work Marc Brew Company have created a piece that is satisfyingly effective, leaving images that will remain with me for a long time.