Thursday, 12 August, 2010

5 Cutting Edge Dance Companies

The Actor’s Church – 4-7 Aug 2010- 19:30

The stage is empty except for a silver metal stand.  It is disguised as a young man, dressed in a red striped shirt, black tie, black suit jacket, casual black trousers and white baseball trainers.  His hands are tucked nonchalantly in his pockets and he has a microphone for a head.  The red light is on.  He is waiting and watching.  Classical music plays all around to set the scene.  A voice comes over the tannoy to introduce the first of five dance companies to perform this evening.

First is Big Beef Dance Theatre’s ‘gaME + YOU’.  Four performers, Chandelle Allen, Ruth Bruce, Holly Grayling and Lottie Selwyn, come onto the stage.  They are all wearing bomber jackets, chequered shirts and shorts or trousers.  They stand in a line and each pick up an envelope saying ‘Objective’ on them.  There is a game inside which they explain and then play.  Three more games follow which are opened, explained and then played.

For something, which is supposed to be about games, it is not particularly playful or interesting.  The performers run around the stage doing various actions, which are meant to be comical, but seem forced and disjointed.  The games quickly get predictable as each is opened and explained.  False moustaches are used to signify men in the game.  They steal remote controls from behind one another, they undress throughout until they end up in strap tops and short shorts and attack the microphone man at the end.  This is the highlight of the performance as it is a bit of a game to guess what next they will pull from his pockets.

It is a shame that the model was not utilised more significantly in this performance.  The undressing of the performers was unnecessary.  The performance did not flow together well or seem to have a point.   The concept of the performance was good and Marc Dodi and the performers’ ideas have potential. It unfortunately did not come together as a whole.

Following this is Tempered Body Dance Company with ‘Body of Work’.  The performance tells the story of anxieties around body image.  Three dancers, enter the stage dressed in cream strap tops and shorts.  They hold a balance where two hold the third in the air in a closed and protective manner.  Haunting piano music plays.  The dance that follows is a touching and poignant look at the body and the physical and mental restrictions society puts on it.

Maddy Wynne-Jones’ choreography is delicate and detailed.  The story unfolds like a good book.  The dancers have one moment where they form a triangle and the lead dancer completes the moves a few seconds ahead of the other two and it flows like water.  The delay is faultless.  In another moment they each form a shape like birds in flight, about to take off and explore their new freedom.

The music by Adam Janota Bzowski/Halogen from Maternity Media complements the performance and enhances the story.  A deep pulsating telephone sound in the music at one point echoes that of a heart beating in the lifeless skinny models being portrayed on stage.  The heart is fighting to work while they fight to give up and wither away to nothing.  Another piece of up-tempo music is like painful memories and trying to find the solution beyond them.

Cat Ben Abbes, Rebecca Goor and Claudia Palazzo dance expertly.  They all portray the story well and capture the beauty of the body despite the conception of its many faults.  Working together like organs of the body they take the stage and make it their own individually and as a group.  A bandage is used adeptly throughout to display the pain and entrapment against the escape from the confines of this and a new direction and way of thinking.  They all dance with poise and elegance.  Their grace is admirable.  Their facial expressions tell the story.  It is fascinating to watch.  Their characters take us on a journey.  They explore their new selves.  They are scared, looking over the edge into the unknown but are ready to take a leap of faith.

Antique Dances are next with ‘Ternion’, which means ‘set of three’.  Three dancers, two women and one man, enter wearing similar black leotards and have silver make-up on their faces.  It has a futuristic air about it.  The anticipation is exciting.

What follows is a tantalising and captivating performance from start to finish.  Holly Noble’s choreography is daring.  The dancers have a good formation at all times.  They dance in coordination and complete impressive movements on various levels, which adds a further dimension to the piece.  Holly Noble challenges the dancers and challenges the perception of where each dancer is seen to fit and the role they will play.  A story unfolds of a fight for power.  A tug of war ensues and the balance constantly shifts until the dancers are the successors.  They are triumphant but exhausted.

The dancers, Samantha Lewis, Brett Murray and Sarah Davidson, start in a line, one in the middle and the others at either end.  They are pushed hard throughout the performance.  They skilfully create various shapes and movements in quick succession and in slow motion at times.  All the dancers produce commendable performances however, Brett Murray has an extra appeal about him.  His poise and actions are tight and sharp when necessary.  They are gentle and elegant the rest of the time.  Coupled with his facial expressions, he draws a lot of the focus.

The music by Chris Clark narrates the story impeccably.  The music is static and funky.  It is like a record getting stuck in a record player, but on purpose and with the coolness and acceptance of the crowd at an exclusive party.  The music seems to take on a life of its’ own.  It becomes the voice and attacks the characters in the story as they fight back in the struggle to see who will prevail.  The music dissolves at the end to reflect the accomplishment of the characters as the ‘voice’ diminishes and finally dies.  Its light has gone out and they can breathe once again without fear.

After the interval, Collisions Dance Company perform ‘Inertia’.  Three women in blue t-shirts and black shorts walk onto the stage.  It is a story about confinement and the struggle against this.  The characters are stuck in a state of inertia and desire movement and change.  David Beer’s choreography tells a compelling tale.  They are birds in flight sharing their misery in a perfect formation.  They sway from side to side to find a balance and see how far they can take it.  Careless freedom makes way for happier times after a fraught period of torment.  The action becomes more focused as the story progresses.  They work as a unit supporting each other with more focused movements.  There is a definite purpose for them.  There are cascading actions like a flowing river.  There is hostility as the two sides collide and battle.  They are puppets trying to break free from their strings.

Ludovico Einaudi’s music depicts the torment well.  It starts hopeful yet sad.   Violins come in later and the pace gets faster like the characters are running for their lives.  It darkens and there is an ominous tone as something threatens the current carefree nature of the characters.  Hopeful piano music mirrors the growth of the characters like flowers in bloom.  They are renewed but cautious.  The music magnifies the intensity of the action and mirrors the dancer’s moves artfully.

The dancers, Cara Hopkins, Elizabeth Peck and Soleil Webster are engaging and delightful to watch.  There is a moment when the dancers are on the floor and one undulates her body like a pained heart beat.  It is simple and graceful.  Another stunning moment occurs when one walks past the others. They move as if touched by the breeze.  They dance in unison, in cascades and spin free of their captor.  Their actions intensify as they near the ultimate fight.  They are steadfast then collapse, up and down again.  It gets faster and harder until they collapse in prostrate triumph.  All is peaceful.  The perfect conclusion to a beautiful performance.

Last to perform are Joss Arnott Dance with ‘threshold’.  Seven women enter.  The costumes by Susan Kulkarni have the women looking like futuristic soldiers or tribes people.  They wear opaque black tops and shiny blue shorts.  It is an impressive start and fitting for the story.

The dancers, Jessica Hall, Grace Hann, Stephanie Hodgson, Samantha Lewis, Lisa Rowley, Rosanna Wallis and Peri Jasmine Warren, all have their backs facing outwards while one dances.  Techno music, by Laura Harrison and Ronen Kozokaro, plays as the dancers complete strong, powerful movements like an army marching and gearing up for war.  They are in attack mode.  They seem to be showing their prowess and worth.  Drums play and intensify then fade.

A disruptive noise, like electrical interference and trying to find a signal, plays all around.  It is akin to an unknown race speaking an unknown language.  We are privy to a conversation that we should not be hearing.  It is secret and dangerous.  Two members of the force battle one another in a display of ability.  They are on par however.

More conversation continues as there are further noises of electrical interference.  One person creates a message in dance and three more crawl in and create a counter message like a response to it with a few changes.  The music changes back to soldiers marching and they struggle within themselves.  A burst of music breaks out and the soldiers disperse to either side.  Instructions are danced out and each responds to confirm their understanding.  One leaves as another enters, going over the plan of action.  The atmosphere builds and there is an urgency to their movements.  The music continues to build. The dancers energy is now at an all time high and it is thrilling to watch.  The energy has been building throughout and it is a testament to the skill of the dancers to be able to keep up this level of activity throughout.

The final moments see them once again with their backs facing outwards.  They are still keeping something hidden and have not revealed all their strategies.  All will be revealed it seems.  The ultimate cliff hanger.  A consummate piece of work.

The whole evening is a commendable display of skill in choreography, music and dance.  The body is pushed to various limits.  Art is painted on the stage and the beauty of what the body can do is revealed.  It is an enjoyable evening showing a laudable showcase of talent.  Thoroughly recommended.

Cast Credits:

Big Beef Dance Theatre: Chandelle Allen – performer.  Ruth Bruce – performer.  Holly Grayling – performer. Lottie Selwyn.

Tempered Body Dance Company: Cat Ben Abbes – dancer.  Rebecca Goor – dancer.  Claudia Palazzo – dancer.

Antique Dances: Sarah Davidson – dancer.  Samantha Lewis – dancer.  Brett Murray – dancer.

Collisions Dance Company: Cara Hopkins – dancer.  Elizabeth Peck – dancer.  Soleil Webster – dancer.

Joss Arnott Dance: Jessica Hall – dancer.  Grace Hann – dancer.  Stephanie Hodgson – dancer.  Samantha Lewis – dancer.  Lisa Rowley – dancer.  Rosanna Wallis – dancer.  Peri Jasmine Warren – dancer.

Company Credits:

Big Beef Dance Theatre: Conceived by – Marc Dodi, Chandelle Allen,  Ruth Bruce,    Holly Grayling,  Lottie Selwyn.  Music – B*Witched,  Chuck Berry,  Yul Brenner and Deborah Kerr,  Vanessa  Carlton,  Billy Ray Cyrus,  Michael and Janet Jackson,  Olivia Newton John and John Travolta,  Kenny Rogers,  The Contours,  Paul Weller.

Tempered Body Dance Company: Choreographer – Maddy Wynne-Jones.  Composer – Adam Janota Bzowski/Halogen, Maternity Media www.maternitymedia.com.  Additional tracks – Gentle Piece, Piano Works 2008 Craig Armstrong.  Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow, 1962 Ben E King., written by Carol King and Gerry Goffin.

Antique Dances: Choreographer – Holly Noble.  Music – Chris Clark.

Collisions Dance Company: Choreographer – David Beer.  Music – Ludovico Einaudi.

Joss Arnott Dance: Music – Laura Harrison,  Ronen Kokokaro.  Costume – Susan Kulkarni.

© Chantal Pierre-Packer


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