Line of Life review by Simon Fallaha

There is a spellbinding ambience to Clara Kerr’s dance installation Line Of Life, commissioned by Maiden Voyage Dance for our viewing pleasure at the 2023 Young At Art Belfast Children’s Festival.

Blending her performance of the very moves she choreographs with rhythmic booms, soothing melodies and stripped-back, arresting graphics, Kerr, along with the production team, ensure we are witness to not only an undisputed technical, musical and physical marvel but also a think piece of entrancing ambiguity.

The visuals, sound and movement within are enlightening and inspirational – so much so that as brief as the twenty-minute piece may seem, there is plenty for the audience to ponder in the aftermath. The Line Of Life that Kerr has presented for us doesn’t merely appear to be about one line, but multiple lines – her life, our lives and everyone’s lives in an examination of the endearing and equally frustrating complications of life and living.

When we create our own lines of life, so to speak, how much of our own creativity are we really injecting into them? Do they genuinely belong to us? Are they born of soulful desire, or are they in the adherence of instinctive, and potentially instinctively reassuring, servitude of waves, light and sound, which are reflected in this specific work by uniquely special effects?

These are only a handful of questions that Kerr seems to be addressing with her conditional and contextual body shapes. Shapes that reflect a change in context and condition not only with the plans we make, the sights we see and the music we hear, but from societal demands in general. Societal demands which, either by choice or circumstance, are restricted or restrictive, in the same way Kerr’s movements all occur behind a right-angled white line – like a boundary which separates initiator from observer, the liveliness and art within dovetails with the observance and enlightenment without. Life finds a way, in more ways than one, and Line Of Life is partly about our attempt to bridge this particular group of titular lines – in this case, the boundaries – and how we confront the tentativeness that may naturally arise when trying to do so.

Line Of Life is also, in light of the lines that appear behind Kerr as she makes her moves, about embracing the symbolic “lines” in life. We see these visual lines “break up” to resemble not only a distinctive kind of graphic equaliser – such is the way in which they respond to the music we hear – but a foundation in pieces, a reflection of the building blocks for life and living. It is as if what once seemed akin to an oak tree – and oak is representative of exceptional solidity in itself, as an emblem for eighty years of marriage – is now like several brambles, the sign of a once seemingly unbreakable bond with humanity and nature not necessarily shattering but becoming so much more fragile. It is not only a tale of the vulnerability and fortitude that can arise in the process of becoming older, but also an illustration of fearful fragility as a price to pay for the vivacious versatility that can emerge from leaving stability behind.

Thus the nuances of Line Of Life do not merely revolve around the choices we make as individuals but also those we make as couples, in relationships – decisions which branch out in several directions over time and can be broken or diverted by the slightest happenstance. It is to Kerr’s credit that these rich and eclectic nuances of life find their way into our hearts and minds along with the positivity in her exceptional endeavour – the overall effect is both profound and hugely satisfying.