Verve, Northern Contemporary Dance School's postgraduate dance company, celebrates the lithe vitality and youthful enthusiasm of professional dancers at the dawn of their careers. The program is varied, presenting pure movement, conceptual and theatrical pieces, using a wide mix of sound from classical to popular culture. Mark Baker and Luke Hayward’s lighting design is a striking and complimentary feature throughout.

Conceptually, the strongest piece of the evening, Night Time, was choreographed by Frauke Requardt.

Smoke fills the stage as one dancer is held in the air reaching toward a single beam of light. Right away, this sets up a world of wistful innocence. Duets pass through passages of luminosity, and picture frames of tenderness as the dancers momentarily brush cheeks. Movement is precise and uncluttered, with symbiotic fluidity, heightened by Valentina Golfieri’s costuming. Delicate lace and wafting chiffon merge together, offering different nuances as the light bounces from one material to another.

Midway through, the dancers pull, tug and fling one another, alerting us to a more subversive darker world. Textures shift to leathers and lace, wild flying hair, ganglike groupings and more intricate and sharp gestural movement. The tone is now controversial: heavy, languid sounds pump out the beat and become progressively drunken, discordant and crashing until eventually the world disappears, the image of youthful innocence is fleeting.

Six dancers ‘make their bones’ in Angus Balberine’s surreal theatrical delirium, Instructions to the Animal. Film noir tinged with David Lynch, the piece opens with a darkly-lit stage silhouetting a man in a cowboy hat. Satin red shoes are tossed on stage, suggesting a macrocosm that is the antithesis of the Wizard of Oz, without wishes or rainbows. A dancer gesticulates ironically, saying “I want this place to sparkle”. Long black gloves are repeatedly taken on and off, ecstatically happy smiles suggest desperately that ‘the show must go on’: There are small references to Rita Hayworth throughout.

Dancers pose, in an ever-advancing charade of oneupmanship; cinematic tableaus ravel and unravel, moving from sinister to euphoric. A dancer asks us in Italian and then in English, “Is there a God?”

Shamran Nazeri and the F**k Buttons twin eastern dirge with metallic propulsive sounds which surge to euphoric crescendos. The action builds to hysteria and extreme oddity with sections of more frenzied and thrusting movement. Meanwhile, a dancer parades in a scarlet satin dress as red light fills the stage, leaving the audience free to get lost in this chaotic, beguiling piece.

Spoken words are at times inaudible due to a lack of projection but the desperate need to be somebody – to ‘sparkle’ still resonates. In the words of Rita Hayworth: ”You have to have that little statue in Hollywood, or else you`re nothing!

James Wilton’s Resurgence is an athletic and well-crafted pure movement piece, set to a soundtrack of chanting music from Om. Steady, weighty, deep bass vibrations palpate the space. Quick movements harness power and speed and complex choreography amplifies the physicality of seven dancers as they embrace the exciting yet smooth quality of Capoeira. In a myriad of duets and trios, they chase and pull one another into challenging sequences of lifts, rolls and reaches: diving, spinning and hurling themselves around the stage, breakdancing into inverted spins.

The meaning of this work is puzzling, as dancers look downward at points and one dancer deliberately closes his eyes. The reason for this never emerges. On the whole, Resurgence extends impressive movement material, but it is hardly cutting-edge.

Choreographed by Ben Wright, Shuffle is a light hearted play on the word shuffle: a randomized order of events, a mashup of songs and clothing. Featuring a relatable playlist of mainly pop songs including Peggy Lee and Deelite, the full company proceeds in a disorderly way, clothed in unmatching apparel, exploring different formations, games, and dance movement.

Superficially quirky and entertaining, but ultimately flawed, the choreography, like the word ‘shuffle’, is unspecific, unconsidered and aimless. Much of the movement is unresponsive, and does not fully match, or oppose the music; frustratingly, there are moments of potential which are not realised. This may be a conceptual tool but ultimately the scattered result is not compelling.

The company of dancers are impressively vibrant and skilful as an ensemble. They cope well with complex material and demonstrate versatility, precision and admirable technique. A choreographic rework of all pieces earlier in the day, due to two injured dancers, saw slight hesitancy during some unison material in the first piece but this is understandable; Danilo Caruso, in particular, shows fierce commitment as an accomplished performer. Lovers of mainstream contemporary dance will not be disappointed.

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Double Act at Yorkshire Dance

Woody Allen said that ‘If you are not failing now and again, then you are probably not doing anything innovative’. Thankfully, Yorkshire Dance’s Friday Firsts provides just such an opportunity for choreographers and audiences alike: the chance to experience new and experimental choreography up close and personal.

This particular evening, Double Act, curated by Beth Cassani, explores, provokes and romps with the idea of ‘couplings’, starting with Intercourse, a ‘performative’ solo devised by Louise Ahl. The main focus of this piece is the concept, investigating the relationship between artists, critic and audience, the conclusion of which was a likening of this interaction to sexual intercourse.

Intercourse starts with the performer walking inelegantly toward the audience wearing a Greek tragic mask. There are three chairs which she then proceeds to arrange into various different spatial patterns, presumably a metaphor for the relationships between audience, critic and artist, bringing to mind the Jungian enactment of ‘ego’ and ‘self’. This short section segues into a screen projection of words telling us the explicit things which this performance will do, including ‘coming all over (our) face’. This section is mildly engaging.

What then follows is a monotonous solo, minus the mask, to a single repetitive beat. This climaxes with screams, orgasms, and guttural retching sounds – a comment on how audiences and critics throw up on performers? Ironically, there was a distinct lack of interaction between performer and audience. The material was repetitious, disengaging and although the orgasm section, for obvious reasons, was more exciting, Meg Ryan did it much better.

Perhaps it would be worth Louise really pinning down the intention of this work and consider actually engaging with the audience. As a member of the audience, this was lacking and was aggravating. Intercourse did instigate a much-needed dialogue in the post-show talk about performers, audiences and critical thinking, however, given that it became clear in this discussion that Ahl, in her own words, dislikes most choreography and does not value critical thinking in the form of reviews, one wonders why this would be the main subject of her research. It feels like a narrow perspective to start with.



Young Man! is a smouldering and gutsy remake of Le Jeune Homme et la Mort, which was famously brought to life by Roland Petit in 1946. A daunting task, perhaps, but Carlos Pons Guerra does this with considerable aplomb and this intense version is sweetly brutal, cleverly blurring the lines of gender.

Having found a couple of spectacular women which even Pedro Almodóvar would have found dramatically pleasing, we see their relationship play out amongst kitschy Spanish music, garlicky sweat, plenty of wrestling and a sizeable leg of authentic "jamón".

The opening, which mirrors that of the original, sees Sabrina Ribes Bonet lying on a table smoking a cigarette, with smoke lingering in the air. The rest of the stage is bare, apart from two red chairs and the chorizo she bites chunks out of while looking across the room. This dramatically sets the scene as feisty Victoria de Silva arrives on stage - and all hell breaks loose.

Beautifully visualized, their duet is executed with dexterity using the props in inventive and suggestive ways. The dancers wrestle each other in rolls, balances and lunges, and much of their intertwining takes place on the floor; one taunts the other, pouncing with matadorial virility. The balance of power flips back and forth and much like the first piece, we see very graphic simulations of the sexual act, but this time in movement rather than sound.

This unraveling dance is mesmerizing to watch, though the plot beyond the tussle of a torrid affair is less clear. Thus the ending which included the use of white powder, a lighter, a spoon to mime ‘shooting up’ seemed rather unconvincing and left me a little bemused, and those unfamiliar with the original story - which sees the death of the lead dancer at the end - might feel baffled. That said, Young Man! is an impressively meaty piece of work by DeNada Dance Theatre, showing us that Carlos Pons Guerra has sizeable balls alongside his large ‘jamón’.


Ryan is a quirky gin-and-tonic of dance comedy celebrating the underappreciated genius of Tom Hanks. Devised and performed by Oliver Bray and Rachel Krische, it is a collision of Fred and Ginger with Laurel and Hardy, and like all the great duos, Bray and Krische have that certain ‘je ne sais quoi’.

Bursting onto the stage with panache, they mix spoken word, song and dance and give true Oscar-winning performances. With a convincing crooner style, Bray works the audience, asking individual people to share their dreams, each of which he connects to a ‘Hanksism’. This direct interaction with the audience is very refreshing, immediately breaking the dysfunctional relationship alluded to in the first piece of the night. What bridged that gap further was the use of first names when talking to the sound technician, and to one another.

Unpretentious is the word which springs to mind: Bray has a charming yet masterful delivery. In one hilarious moment, Bray announces to us that he is “the best dancer in the world’ as he raises his foot effortlessly past his groin. The ridiculousness of this has a similar effect to Dawn French’s impersonation of Darcey Bussell. Krische, too, is a classy performer, having worked for companies such as La Ribot and Deborah Hay: she has assured ease, individual style and technical grace. Indeed, Rachel has that same likeable quality which got Tom Hanks his first ‘Big’ break.

Ryan has the potential to be a genius piece of theatre but Bray and Krische still need to find their true jeté. Is there a deeper comment they wish to make? Is a deeper comment necessary? These are some of the questions to explore. What is for certain though, the development of this work will be a riproaring affair to remember.


Donald Hutera recently said that good writing is in the ‘rewriting’, and the same can be true for choreography. We need to create more spaces like Friday Firsts for experimental work to be seen so that artists can create, receive critical feedback without feeling ‘lashed to the boards’ if it tanks. In the words of the illustrious Tom Hanks, “If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it; hard is what makes it great!”

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Jasmin Vardimon: Freedom



What does it mean to be free? Can we only define freedom by its absence?  ”We have to fail the experience of freedom to be able to recreate it” said Jasmin Vardimon, when talking about her latest work Freedom. These ironic contrasts are prevalent throughout this intriguing, if indulgent exploration of all that is, and is not freedom. The structure of the piece is episodic, with a series of different characters, whose stories eventually collide. As typical for this company, the piece melds voice, theatricality, movement and technology. It is hedonistic and intoxicating. The opening landscape immediately transports us to an ecological, prehistoric dreamland: a recycled jungle suspended over the stage. There are clusters of floating lights that bring to mind the ‘Naavi’ from Avatar. One performer climbs a moving leafy mass that then delightfully disintegrates into the floor. It is a promising beginning.

The set is intricate and versatile: one moment a forest, next extensions of a dancer's arms, then revolving as if ‘the passing of time’. The choices in music work well, from driving pumping tracks to more natural sound, with popular cultural inserts, most notably the wistful sounds of Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s Over the Rainbow and John Lennon’s Imagine. The video animations by Jesse Collett are clever and highly entertaining. This mix of media and dance is engaging and one of the signature trademarks of the long-term collaboration between Jasmin Vardimon and Guy Bar-Amotz.

As we would expect from this company, the vibrancy of the movement is exciting: physically-demanding choreography which requires buckets of strength, stamina and energy. The dancers launch through space, flinging their bodies into the air and to the ground, contrasting with moments of exquisite and detailed gestures. One duet was entirely hypnotic and conjured images of sea organisms undulating in deep oceans. Through the piece, the six dancers are shackled, ravaged and devoured, as if trapped in their own 'Jungle Reality' nightmare: one moment being eaten by rapid dogs, next kicked in the face, or having their wrists bound. They explore bold contrasts both imagined and real in a variety of inventive vignettes: characters entwined in 'free' love, tangled ballerinas stomping and screaming, and best of all, a skit with a human surf board.

At points though, the movement sequences are repetitive without adding any new ideas, and some of the scenes are over-indulgent, which sometimes leaves the audience ahead of the plot and looking at their watches. Having said that, there are moments of delicious melodrama which strike a bittersweet chord. These serve to revive the important subject of this production, and beg the question - can we handle being free? Do we actually need boundaries to feel safe? Despite misgivings, Freedom is a poetic work of technically challenging physical theatre; undeniably accessible and socially relevant.


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Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch: Vollmond



Two men enter holding empty water bottles. They proceed to calmly, deliberately swipe their arms through the air in unison, the bottles creating a low, rhythmic whoosh as they do so. A third man joins them, swinging a wooden pole to the same rhythm and adding texture to the simple soundscape. In this opening section, the repetition of vignettes underscores the sense of rhythm and ritual that the men set up.

This is Pina Bausch’s Vollmond (2006), with Peter Pabst’s iconic boulder looming with possibility from the start. There is also water. Lots of water. But this doesn’t feature until later. It is only when a performer splashes through the central strip, which has until then been kept in shadow, that the water makes its presence known, adding another layer to the soundscape. By this point, the performers have made several of their characteristically witty, sardonic observations to the audience and there has been a variety of music, but the live soundscape created by the water and the performers’ use of various objects (more bottles, lots of wineglasses) remains a constant thread through the work. It gives Vollmond a richness and cohesiveness, and is key in Bausch’s successful creation of a self-contained world.

This is real strength of Vollmond: despite seemingly disparate elements and what can sometimes feel like disjointed snippets of eccentricity, the world the characters inhabit is distinct. It is not present from the start: the world emerges slowly, subtly developing as the work progresses. Bausch does not over-rely on sets or props to set up the world (despite the conspicuous presence of both), but lets it emerge through the characters’ actions and relationships. It is a palpable world, whether or not individual moments resonate.

Not all moments do. There is a highly personal element at play: what one person finds amusing, another might find horrifying, another passé. But the large scope for individual response and interpretation in Bausch’s work is not always matched with a wide social scope; the fixed gender roles quickly start to feel limiting, and the scope for the portrayal of women seems particularly narrow. But how much of this is down to Bausch’s aesthetic? How much is critique?

The humour in Vollmond is characteristic of Bausch: there are dark sides aplenty, but there is also lightness, quirkiness, and hilarity. Often, witty text converts the slightly odd to the utterly absurd: a man splays himself across the boulder. A pause, then a shout: “it’s mine!”. A woman crawls across the stage, another character gradually draping her in pink cloth. “The Pink Panther,” he declares self-satisfactorily before exiting. Such moments, by taking what borders on the ordinary and making it extraordinary, bring the inherent absurdities of life to the forefront.

Numerous solos and duets allow glimpses into the psyches of different characters. Dominique Mercy’s solo resonates with particular power. When the rare ensemble section does occur, it is a welcome complement to the sparseness of the small groupings. Sometimes, the emsemble provides a moving landscape of bodies to offset a solo. In one such instance, the men glide back and forth, punting themselves urgently around the stage, completely overwhelming the lone female soloist. At other times the ensemble revisits motifs from the solos or duets, compounding their effect as the density of bodies takes the absurdities to more frenzied extremes.

The move from order to chaos becomes more extant as the work progresses. Admittedly, it was never an orderly order. Rather, an order with a sense of disorder, and this disorder magnifies as the work draws to its conclusion. As the two hour mark approaches the pace becomes more frenetic, and the characters revisit moments from earlier in the work. Traces of water and chalk are left on the stage as further evidence of past happenings. The energy builds and what was quirky becomes delirious as the breathtaking power of the performers and the water reaches new heights (literally). It is thrilling and exhilerating, bordering on the sublime. Awe mingles with disbelief as the performers are pushed to their limits, soaking wet and in the grip of an insanity. It is an insanity that makes me no longer want to be sane.

With nearly all of the house on their feet for a standing ovation, and the performers persuaded to return for a third bow, the audience’s response was almost as moving as Vollmond itself.


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Retina Dance Company

Retina Dance Company has been gearing up for the UK premiere of their latest work Corporalis, which took place tonight (19 February) at Nottingham Playhouse, with further tour dates to be confirmed. A work exploring architecture and dance, Corporalis uses Retina's signature physical and dynamic choreographic style, and reminding us why they're that cut above other dance companies.

At the end of last week, they put out a call on Twitter and Facebook for photographers to shoot their rehearsal the day before their premiere; seeing as I was in Cheltenham at the time (for a dance photography workshop, no less), it made perfect sense to travel to Nottingham to photograph them in rehearsal. The photos below are from excerpts of the work, as captured during their rehearsal.

The next performance of Corporalis will be at Déda in Derby on 19 April; for tickets and information, please visit

To find out tour dates near you, please visit (and revisit, as further dates get added)



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Refresh 2013



Mentor Kerry Nicholls has overseen a strong collection of works for this year’s Refresh. In keeping with the tradition, music suggestions from prominent choreographers were thrown into a lucky dip, from which another batch of choreographers drew and based their work with the six youth dance companies involved. Intervals between performances were filled with interview footage of the music selectors, musing on their own development and extolling the virtues of dance as a language in itself – inspiration for young, emerging dance artists.

First up was Nicholls’ own work with Shift, The Place’s youth dance company, entitled The Falling Room. It was a strong opening for this group of twenty-one dancers, distinguished by geometric composition in a lattice structure and effective use of synchronicity. Encounters occurred in duets and trios, with nicely calculated lifts and descents, extended limbs and articulated joints, firmly punctuated rhythms. With no infusion of conceptual content, this was a purely aesthetic response to the sound score by David Walters, but there was nothing lacking for this, it was a solidly realized piece.

In the program notes, Lucy Crowe admits to the challenge fate dealt her with Phillip Feeney’s Code: music dominated by choppy, rhythmic jazz piano and a primal, chugging feel. The group took it on quite daringly, with an interpretation of ‘threat’ that involved tattoos and wild hair, some impressive groundwork, capoiera-inspired contortions and spins, and a sporadic collective shout. There were rapid shifts in pacing between small, fast phrases and slow-melting pauses, giving a garbled and edgy feel. Aesthetically, they were heading toward a coherent response but didn’t quite arrive at a point of final refinement; the performers were too wonderfully rounded and human to convey a genuine sense of threat.

ENB YouthCo’s Tribe had a subtler vision, appropriate to the electronic music by Flying Lotus, chosen by hip-hopper Jonzi D. The bird-or-insect-like embodiment was nicely echoed by faint birdsong early in the piece before the sound took on further layers of electronic complexity. Ensemble configurations were of the essence, with the group starting in unison and then breaking up to find fleeting duets and trios. Exits and entrances were constant and inventive, engagements building and dispersing rapidly throughout. But the overall character of the piece was subtle, and the bland costumes did little to counter this. Nonetheless, the overall trajectory of spatial dynamics had a pleasingly fractal feel of organised chaos, and this was beautifully resolved in the stray, single figure of the ending.

A winning jocularity was brought to the lineup with Again and Again, Fuzzy Logic’s response to Bawren Tavaziva’s original composition, under Zoie Golding’s choreography and theatrical vision. The all-male cast of seven was the smallest of the evening but made up for it with their bright waistcoats, robust and rounded moves, and leapfrog-style lifts and flips. There was also deft work with slippery props. The piece began with a short sequence of grounded partnerwork before the surprise arrival of the group’s final member, who emerged suddenly, disgruntled, front-and-centre stage, from under a pile of orange plastic bags. This led to the unpacking of further bags in a grid formation, the bags acting as stepping stones for a sequence that spoke of fixation and safety. Then followed a hyperreal segment depicting the extreme responses to a newly opened letter. The final image was of cut-out letters hung on a string and held between two dancers as the others puzzled over them in quasi-simian drollery, the final choice teased out being OCD. It was a fun ending to a piece that explored our twitchy and fractious side, but embedded in plenty of warmth, curiosity and humour.

Quicksilver’s The Disappearance of Elsie May carried on the concern with the human mind, but with a pastel costume palette and lightfooted, hushed-and-muted feel, which was apposite to choreographer Laura Harvey’s choice of theme: dementia. The choreographic response here moved in sensitive relationship to the sound score Theory of Machines by Ben Frost, with its building layers and cadences which ranged from serene to rasping and severe. Again, ensemble composition was significant, beginning in symmetry and fragmenting significantly, with duets and trios to follow. An overall sense of distance yet poignancy was admirably achieved, culminating in an exquisite ending of symmetrical mirroring between two female dancers. The absence of drama and sentimentality were powerful as one dancer succumbed to internal withdrawal, and the other, not succeeding in coaxing her out, backed off and moved away.

Drawing the night to a nicely swaggering conclusion was The Beauty Within, by Sia Gbamoi, Dani Harris-Walters and PPL Dance Company, whose fortunes were set by Goomba Boomba, a mambo now twenty-five years old. The poetic prelude to the music was charming and natural, as the group’s lounging and daydreaming gave way to distorted mannerisms, chatter, bopping heads and shoulders. Then they swung into movement that was not at all mambo but had something of its sinuosity and torso-driven style, with undulations and grounded hips. Grotesque imagery was well engendered by wobbling necks and a technique of rapid and repeated freeze and release in the lines of movement, which provided a stroboscopic effect. This darkness was perfectly judged beneath the music’s buoyant pulse.

Aesthetically this was the most pronounced and successful of the night’s shows, demonstrating the rich possibility that exists when random elements meet in the melting pot that is Refresh.


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Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch: Two Cigarettes in the Dark



‘Why don’t you come in, my husband is at war’ bids Mechthild Grossmann, one of the original cast members (alongside Dominique Mercy) in Two Cigarettes In The Dark, originally created in 1985. Standing at the footlights in a voluminous ball gown, her majestic pose and weighty tone instantly alludes to dejected relationships and small-time affairs.

Striking stage design from Peter Pabst sets the mood further: a white room with numerous doors and hidden stairs, completed with a tropical garden, cacti and aquariums seen through its three windows. Its excessiveness conjures an image of opulence and decadent parties of the early 20th century. The cast dressed in ball gowns and black-tie stagger through their interactions in a series of vignettes which illustrate their disjointed relationships. They are like guests that have never left and years later are still wandering through the house conducting their affairs and avoiding their own reality.

Present are the familiar themes synonymous with Pina Bausch's work: gender-inflicted relationships, emotional dependence and social stereotypes. There are manipulative, self-important men and hapless obedient women: a man dragging a woman to a puddle on the floor, screaming at her as if training a puppy, before she obediently pulls her underwear down in the corner he points to. There is vulgar sex, and nudity, and screaming, all of which feels integral, and sardonic humour.

Comical moments and gestures here are executed melancholically, with heads hung low and at a tempo which is slightly too slow to be funny; instead, it underscores the absurdity, meaninglessness and resignation of the characters' existence. Mercy enters wearing a ball gown and the audience giggles, but he walks slowly, in dim light, his gaze tracing the floor, and it begins to feel like escapism – being somebody else, so as not to face himself.

The cast in Two Cigarettes are magnificent as ever, breathing every cell of their character and there is not a moment of doubt in their sincerity. The stunning set completed beautifully with lighting design and ever-perfect music score do not disappoint.

However the lengthy vignettes are too disjointed at times, and the themes feel less defined than in some of Bausch’s other work. As the piece entered its third hour, is it really necessary to watch Michael Strecker spray paint himself white for quite so long? If only Bausch was a tad more selective in her editing. Yet as the evening ends with Bing Crosby’s Two Cigarettes In The Night the prevailing emotion is admiration for Bausch’s sense of humour and sensitivity to life.


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Resolution! The Twin Factory, Wrecking Ball Dance Company, Off The Map

The last night of Resolution! 2013 offered three quite different works, but none really stood out.

The Twin Factory’s Geraldine and Me opened the night. Created and performed by dance and visual artists Rachel Champion and Linda Remahl, strong design elements constructed a consistent, effective aesthetic world for the performers to inhabit. It was a world vaguely Victorian in nature. Already on stage when the audience entered the auditorium, one performer paced back and forth in a black crinoline dress while the other stayed unseen, moving objects in and out of a pool of light in a manner reminiscent of a magician. In the opening vignette, the crinolined figure, Geraldine, frantically removed her complex clothing revealing a vividly red underskirt, then a white layer, until she stood in only a shift. Stripped down and exposed she was then repeatedly redressed by her fellow performer. The theme here was clearly one of identity, and from the nervous, anxious state suggested by her (slightly overacted) physicality, Geraldine seemed as uncertain of it as anyone.

Described as “a duet for one. A solo for two,” Geraldine was the focus. The other performer, dressed in black, skirted the lit areas to move props and costumes much like a stagehand, asking the audience to indulge in the illusionistic elements of traditional theatre. This relationship eventually shifted, but having the second performer take a more central role weakened some of the constraints set up in the first half of the piece: it confused rather than elucidated.

A breaking of the fourth wall interrupted the hyper theatricality of Geraldine and Me and saved it from becoming gimmicky. But despite the rich world created, the work did not provide a real sense of who Geraldine was. Perhaps this was the point. Or perhaps the ambiguity about this point was the point. Metaphysical questions aside, ultimately there was not enough to offer a connection with Geraldine and her plight.

Wrecking Ball Dance Company’s Even the Devil Has Demons sits somewhere in the murky depths of the commercial-street-contemporary crossover. The five performers dressed in black tracksuits and hoodies have attitude and personality. Hoods go down, hoods go up. Unusually, and refreshingly, the men outnumber the women, however the overly rigid traditional gender roles detract some of the interest from the movement.

The achievement of this piece is in its tightness; it was well-rehearsed, which is not something seen in every Resolution! group work. Conceptually, however, there is not a lot on offer. The program notes vaguely allude to demonic infiltration, but these come across as nebulous artistic pretensions rather than choreographic substance. Despite the adrenaline pumping movement and the use of some quality music, when all is said and done, Even the Devil Has Demons is not greater than the sum of its (albeit well-executed) parts.  

With the unusually large cast of nine dancers (for Resolution!), Off The Map's Iridescent was in some ways an ambitious undertaking. The unison sections in the first half were more or less tightly performed, with a precise movement vocabulary that drew the eye in interesting ways. One performer was singled out, and her solo in the middle of the piece was arresting. But her journey as a whole and her relationship to the group was not clear.

The second half of the piece was a disappointment. The unison sections were distinctly not in unison, and although the constraints of Resolution! can be challenging (most pieces are unfunded and are therefore short on time and rehearsal space), as the previous piece demonstrated, this does not always have to be the case. This is an example of recognising (or not recognising) your limits, and choosing whether to prioritise practicalities over vision. Except that the vision of the second half also went worryingly astray with an unfortunate lyrical turn to Linkin Park’s Iridescent. A melodramatic stillness - the nine dancers with their arms outstretched - exploded into a dance party punctuated by cringeworthy light bursts in time to the music: was this irony? Sadly not. In Linkin Park’s words, maybe choreographer Steve Johnstone should have ‘let it go’, or at least have kept these last moments confined to his kitchen.

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Resolution! HINGED, Camila Gutierrez & Fionn Cox-Davies, Cesilie Kverneland, The Nonsuch Dancers

Opening the programme with a refreshing blast of high energy and humour, Taira Foo’s Rainman depicted the story of two brothers, with a cast of eleven and suggestive of Matthew Bourne’s narrative shows. Their journey, complete with troubles and plights, was communicated sometimes a little crudely through evocative motifs, a backdrop of text, voiceovers and attempts at miming or acting which undermined the performance. An exploration of the potential of the movement vocabulary would allow the dancing to tell the story in its entirety, as it began to do in places, without the various other distracting methods. The large chorus often cluttered the stage and this was emphasised by the staccato isolations of the choreography which the dancers struggled to keep concise and in time.

Poignant moments where the brothers performed duets touched on the complex relationship between them, at one point almost becoming each other’s alter ego through weight-sharing, power-struggles and slipping in and out of unison. These sections, expanded and developed, could potentially guide the audience through their emotional journey as well as their physical one. The sensitive and emotional parts of the narrative felt too sudden and strained by the fast pace of the piece; attempting to convey an epic narrative within tight time constraints left it feeling rushed. The story unfolding more gradually would set a better provision for the audience to believe in the emotional triggers in the narrative.

Camila Gutierrez and Fionn Cox-Davies transformed the stage by removing the wings and revealing the sidelights to the audience. Musician Tomislav English delivered a percussive response to the Accomplices ahead of him in a calming and thoughtful play between two dancers, allowing the audience to recover from the highly emotive Rainman. Subtly suspending between lifts and falls, the pair engaged in playful competition, games of chase and spins which circled across the space. Although confidently performed, recontextualising contact improvisation into a rehearsed performance lost the element of risk and danger, preventing the piece from being anything other than a contact exercise. Although it appeared to be somewhat of a crowdpleaser on the night, rooted in movement and contact, it offered little else to uncover.

In (parentheses), a specially-commissioned piece for EDge, the postgraduate performance company of London Contemporary Dance School, six dancers seemed to ensnare the entire auditorium through their connection and focus alone. Brimming with power but never losing control of their dynamics, the colony of beings moved in response to each other throughout the piece. John Derek Bishop’s sound score evoked a tropical rainforest which the dancers seemed to inhabit. In a ritual of movement somewhere between flagellation and grooming, the commitment of the group engaged and almost transported me through a meditation from beginning to end.  The polish and professionalism of the work had a considerable impact on the night.

Witty, silly and outrageously flirty, The Nonsuch Dancers, led by Darren Royston, explored the social relationships that revolved around Tudor dancing in Rexussexus: Tudor Dirty Dancing. The constraints and restraints of the age revealed scandalous opportunities for touch, kiss and play during the act of dancing. Opening the piece as a lecture in the 21st century created a context from which the dancers could jump between different scenes and historical dances. Outstripping each other in the high kicks of the Galliard, or the speed of a sword fight to the stripping of clothes from their partner, the various scenes became disjointed throughout the performance by the multiple characters and musicians on stage, diverting attention from the coy moments of intimacy between the dancers. A more intimate environment focused on the interaction between the couples would evoke an atmosphere of sexual tension that the audience could engage in as a voyeur. As the Tudor outer garments were removed and spatial barriers were broken down, the dancers descended into an exciting, sexual frisson of historical and contemporary dance. At this point a more centrally-focused light would bring the audience’s attention to their physical relationships, illuminating the couple’s private world. A longer exploration of these relationships would allow the audience to indulge in the passions of Tudor life that mirror our own, while the tension between historical accuracy and its contemporary context will always inevitably exist in early dance. A showing of historical dance on the bill for Resolution! gave permission to create a work which exists in its own right in this century, an opportunity clearly grabbed by Royston that can be run with further.

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Resolution! Company Ben Abbes, Tamar Daly & Nicolette Corcoran, KAONASHI

In front of a quieter (but solid and supportive) audience than I've recently experienced at Resolution!, the night got underway with Company Ben Abbes' 'White Room'.

Presenting promising ideas on paper, this piece for five dancers dressed all in white seemed somewhat detached from such concepts as death, fear and loneliness which are mentioned in the programme notes. Instead, the choreography concerned itself more with carefully placed, all-too-familiar movement which unfortunately did not connect to its subject matter or audience.

Throughout the piece, sudden changes in lighting state serve to provide more structure to the space, as did the introduction of seemingly personal props such as a box of belongings, and a small hooded jumper. The piece ended after a duet between choreographer Cat Ben Abbes and dancer Daniel Kovacs, somewhat surprising the audience with the abruptness with which it finished.

More surprises were in store in the form of Tamar Daly & Nicolette Corcoran's charming and well-crafted 'Decode This'. In a fusion of vocals (spoken, sung and looped brilliantly) and quirky, shifting, twitching movements, they explore morse code, texting and love through coded messages.

Reminiscent at times of Protein's 'LOL (Lots of Love)' the piece had these two engaging performers embodying emoticons and telling simple but compelling tales of the text they received after 'last night' (winking smiley ;-) )

Amongst Kristina Hjelm's simple but effective linear lighting in the form of a large 'x', exchanges of glances between performers suggest there is an element of improvisation or chance to the movement together with the sound. No code needed: it works.

Four dancers take to the smoke-filled stage for the night's final work, Kaonashi's 'FADE'. A sequin-clad Katerina Toumpa moves to the beat that is to be a constant throughout the piece, the movement gradually building and devouring the space, watched by the three other exaggerated characters, fantastically made-up by Rebecca Jane Peebles.

Fast footwork and pulsating torsos take the four performers across the space, catching moments of unison and some of the personal journeys driven by the music.

Duets and interactions are frequent and aggressive, well executed by all; the piece succeeds in creating an environment, although it makes no attempt to explain it, nor does it apologise for the bizarre, as a penguin on an iceberg crosses the stage. And well it shouldn't, the bizarre is brilliant.

After a mesmerising solo from Chris Rook, moving fluidly and in staccato seemingly simultaneously, the piece ends on a somewhat thoughtful, melancholy note, a sadness perhaps at the end of what has been one big trip. And the penguin gets a bow...


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Phoenix Dance Theatre: Particle Velocity



Phoenix Dance Theatre premiered their new programme “Particle Velocity” to a packed audience at West Yorkshire Playhouse. This mixed bill was a very diverse programme and offered a combination of traditional and cutting-edge choreography, all wrapped up in the physically dynamic style that Phoenix Dance Theatre is best known for.

The evening opened with choreography from Richard Alston, which is the first work he has created for the company and fans of his work will not be disappointed. All Alight is well-crafted and reminiscent of a more traditional era in choreography, with a series of duets, trios and ensemble sections. This is danced to a backdrop of Ravel’s music for violin and cello, exquisitely performed by Benedict Holland and Jennifer Langridge from Psappha; the musicians’ positioning upstage greatly enhanced the relationship between music and dance. Conceptually and choreographically, All Alight is not groundbreaking work, but as Alston says, ‘I know what moves me about dance’. Apprentice dancers Chris Agius Darmanin and Vanessa Vince-Pang were particularly captivating in this piece, bringing a wonderfully light and elegant quality to their duets. Notable, too, was the seamless lighting from designer Andy Waddington.

Next on the programme was Ki, Jose Agudo's first piece for Phoenix Dance Theatre and inspired by Genghis Khan's extraordinary life, exploring themes of a man seizing control of his own destiny. Josh Wille, performing this solo, is an extraordinary dancer and has ample opportunity to showcase his strong capabilities. The movement is technically and physically demanding, and there are moments that are really exciting. However, conceptually, the piece lacked clarity. While there was a connection to the title 'ki' or 'energy' , using movement content with a martial arts flavour, the link with Genghis Khan seemed rather nebulous.

The strongest piece of the night was after the second interval: Douglas Thorpe’s Tender Crazy Love is conceptually brilliant. Each element of the piece resonates very simply but also very clearly with the same concept. The duet is about a couple pushed to extremes of desire and is visually cinematic. Thorpe’s signature visceral raw style is contextualized within stunning and dramatic lighting which punctuates the shifts in the story. The music is well-chosen and also heightens the action. The use of confetti as a visual is utterly mesmerising and cleverly implemented. The lighting manages to alter the space in unusual and surprising ways. Thorpe’s work has really developed over the past few years, and gone from strength to strength. He is definitely one to watch for the future and I look forward to his first full evening work, Dogs Land, later this year.

Repetition of Change, the final piece of the programme, was choreographed by Phoenix Dance Theatre's Artistic Director, Sharon Watson, and also uses live music with a specially commissioned score ‘Forms Entangled, Shapes Collided’, composed by Kenneth Hesketh and performed by Psappha, which is dark and rhythmically complex. This is an ambitious and brave piece exploring the intricate world of DNA. Watson has replicated and used double helix within the piece because it is multi-layered. The opening of this piece is visually stunning and the movement has a mercurial quality, as a giant parachute begins to unfold under projections which put the dancers on stage under a microscope. This is a very strong section in the piece, with powerful imagery and compelling movement, and could have afforded further development. The dancers work exceptionally well as an ensemble in this piece, which is wonderful to watch.

Phoenix Dance Theatre’s premiere received rapturous rockstar-like applause from their audience, proving it to be a popular and entertaining programme of work. Particle Velocity is touring nationally; visit for further details.


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Resolution! Mariana Camiloti, Loughlin Dance, CoDa Dance Company

The three works of this Resolution! evening all began with strong, striking images. Some delivered on the potential set up by their opening, while others did not.

Standing alone in a green dress, Mariana Camiloti exudes presence from the moment of her entrance. Soon, a green balloon emerges from her pocket and the solo becomes a duet. Air is repeatedly blown into and let of the balloon, with Camiloti similarly inflating and deflating in empathy with her new partner. The pace is slow, but mesmerising, until she breaks the spell by letting go. The balloon whizzes through the air, somewhat ridiculously. A cluster of balloons is revealed at the back of the stage as the lighting signals the shift into the next phase of the dance.

Vibrantly green, these balloons provide a visual feast. Gradually Camiloti arranges them into a diagonal line stretching almost all the way across the stage. Her pace starts slow but becomes more frantic as she rushes up and down the line, constantly rearranging the balloons, trying to keep them in place. It is a valiant, but futile effort, as these green spheres are full of air and agency. The execution of this simple but challenging task is engaging: an attempt at control and a search for order that is in vain, but which is endearing for that very reason.

After requesting the audience to blow up and contribute the balloons that they were given before entering the auditorium, her visual landscape increases in brilliance and we are treated to seeing Camiloti really move. It is breathtaking, full of lightness and clarity, and it leaves me wanting more. As compelling as her earlier gestural movement was, it feels like it is with this new movement energy that 27 Dragonflies wants to culminate. But there isn’t quite enough to satisfy. 

The dreamscape created by Camiloti is about... balloons? Bubbles? Dragonflies? It doesn’t really matter; this is an intensely personal world, to be individually experienced in all its delightful surreality.  

Loughlin Dance’s Placid Chaos opens with one dancer lit by a square of light. As his movement escalates, he is forced out of, and back into the illuminated rectangle, an effective visual choice. The other dancers enter, walking across the stage, sometimes skirting the central lit area, sometimes not. But the tension created by this opening is not upheld in the rest of the dance.
There are some interesting choreographic moments, but these are lost in the larger swirl of bodies that lacks purpose and structure. Overall, the choreography feels too much like snippets of phrases sellotaped together; it needs more flow, and maybe more stillness too. It also tends towards angst, lending it an air of drama that seems superficial rather than supported by the content. The hip-hop inspired sections, although pulsing with intensity, do not fit well into the whole.

Eventually the opening image re-emerges, the rectangle of light starkly lighting the same performer. It is nice to see Placid Chaos come full circle, the end anchored to the beginning, but it doesn’t really go anywhere in between.

The evening concluded with CoDa Dance Company’s 12 Months On. This piece opened with two performers each holding another performer limp in their arms. The choice to prolong this moment was a good one: the tension built accordingly. Eventually it broke, the performers violently dropping their comrades’ bodies to the floor; the power of hearing bodies and floor collide should not be underestimated.

12 Months On deals with caring for the ill and the guilt, anger, and confusion that this can engender. It is dominated by beautifully strong performances and seems to hinge around the duet structure. However, this breaks down as the piece progresses with trios and solos also appearing in the mix. Whilst these moments generally still work, the duet is the more effective choice, especially given the subject matter. More emphasis on the duet as structural underpinning would make for a tighter piece that delivers with more impact.

For the most part, the bodies do the talking, conveying the varied emotional responses to caretaking. However, there is one moment where speech is introduced and it seems unnecessary. The use of voice does not add anything to what the bodies are already saying, and this solo moment could have been just as communicative without.

Overall, 12 Months On conveys what it sets out to convey, highlighting the complexities that come with responsibility towards another’s body: a particularly poignant subject matter for dance.

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'Snow Flying'... !



In the thick of the January snow, our team of four plus two new faces reconnected with each other and with 'Setback'. Here's our most recent rehearsals in words...

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Resolution! DeNada Dance Theatre, Diciembre Dance Group, The Typewriters

It takes a very brave choreographer to tackle Le Jeune Homme et la Morte, previously immortalised by Roland Petit, but not only did Carlos Pons Guerra do exactly that for DeNada Dance Theatre, but he accomplished it with a hell of a lot of flair, effortlessly banishing the likes of Barysnikov, Nureyev and Vasiliev in the opening moments.

Unfortunately, the intensity of Young Man! (a direct translation of 'Jeune Homme') also had the effect of banishing the programme notes, which explained that it was based in post-Franco Spain, "a time of sexual liberation", and that the two androgynous dancers were in fact both women.

Choreographer Carlos Pons Guerra's only nod to Petit's version is the opening scene, which sees Sabrina Ribes Bonet lying on a table, smoking a cigarette as the lights come up. She then munches on an ever-present chorizo before launching into an anguished solo with dramatic gestures and flair.

Death - Victoria Da Silva - arrives in a spotlight, a sultry, ubercool and androgynous figure, hellbent on tormenting Sabrina and destroying her confidence and virility, trying to provoke her however possible - including a very original use of a ham as a prop.

Young Man!
opens with an explosive start, and sustains such high energy for much of the piece, it's unsurprising that the energy levels ebb towards the end of the piece, while Sabrina wrestles with her demons. That's the only low point in this piece, however: Carlos Pons Guerra has created a richly entertaining and enjoyable work with inventive and vivid storytelling and imagery, with fantastic performances from both of his dancers. Young Man! is a piece which deserves to go far - and it teaches the audience two lessons: Spanish women are feisty lovers... and never leave your ham unattended.

Resolution! companies normally have enough challenges to contend with - for example, lack of funding, availability of rehearsal space and dancers, and never enough rehearsals - without the obstacles faced by Diciembre Dance Group, with Lucía Piquero now based in Malta and Sara Accetura in Italy; they had precisely 4.5 hours of rehearsal before this performance.

While the story of Diciembre Dance Group's Yerma's Nights may be obscure to the audience, it takes Federico García Lorca's short story 'Yerma', of a woman obsessed by motherhood despite her barrenness, to the extreme that she murders her husband, thus destroying any chance she could ever have of bearing children. In Yerma's Nights, Sara Accetura portrays the figure of Yerma, while Lucía Piquero is a younger, modern woman discovering the story and the questions it raises for her, with her gradually absorbing Yerma's life and character. Torn pages are used to represent the presence of Lorca's story: from Lucía's discovery and absorption of it to her final rejection of the story - or of no longer needing its presence.

Sara Accetura portrays a tormented, anguished character, predominantly expressing herself through frenzied movement and fecundity references; Lucía Piquero's character is far more pensive, with freshness and optimism to offset Sara's resignation and weariness.

Yerma's Nights
is a contemplative work with much use of stillness and unhurried movement: it can either be a big gamble to create in this way, or an indication of choreographic confidence. It isn't Diciembre Dance Group's strongest work, but Lucía and Sara are to be congratulated for what they achieved in such a short space of time. And the live accompaniment by Alberto García and Victor Gil was absolutely exquisite.

The Typewriters
' Adaptors was a work in two parts - or three, if you include the sections with the dancers milling about or dancing exuberantly in their underwear. Seeking to explore gender differences, especially in relationships, the first half largely fell flat, with an overreliance on minimalism, seemingly to to inject more drama into the characters and their choreography. With a cast of seven dancers, they used small deliberate movements - brushing laps, adjusting seating positions, leaning - offset by more dynamic solos.

The second half saw the dancers swap their unfinished clothing, with the men donning skirts and makeup, and the women adopting male behaviour: exaggerated stances, sniffing loudly and hacking, and of course grabbing their crotches. This half was far more successful, if lacking refinement: Ria Uttridge aggressively tried to seduce Daniel DeLuca, who whimpered and slapped her, but the highlight was an endearing duet between Udifydance's Christopher Reynolds and Daniel DeLuca.


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Resolution! taciturn, Zoe Cobb (The Artful Badger), Ivan Blackstock

Last night’s programme at Resolution! was overflowing with physical humour. Clever and engaging, these three groups: taciturn, (Zoe Cobb) The Artful Badger, and Ivan Blackstock delivered unique perspectives to the everyday event, infusing and delighting the audience with creative performance.

could upstage and deliver some comical lessons to all airline staff: based around health and safety guidelines, this trio demonstrates what to do when your parachute fails, what to do in an earthquake, how to search for a bomb and, finally, how to take a punch. The physical prowess of these three dancers lends itself to what was approaching slapstick comedy, but with enough movement charm to engage with contemporary dance. There were artful transitions between the comedic and the sensitive, the suspended and the rushed; voiceovers, music and vocalization created and carried the scenarios they seamlessly developed. Energetic and engaging, this piece was over far too quickly, though it’s best to go out with a bang. (sorry)

Although not strictly contemporary dance, the second offering of the night performed by another trio: The Artful Badger toyed with the experience of a new bird entering into the world, developing relationships within and around itself. Personalities shaped these dancers as the work progressed, and the physical depiction of this experience, paralleled with the human experience, was touching and often quite comical. Demonstrating curiosity, repetition, camaraderie and even jealousy, these birds bounced and pecked around one another and toward the audience, ruffling their ample feathers in delight and frustration. Though the soundscape was minimal, this work contained a delicate nuance that was emotionally warming.

In the final work for the evening, Ivan Blackstock examined the humourous possibilities of things that go bump in the night. Disturbed by the sleeping habits of the woman next to him, his frustration built into a scene reminiscent of Bedknobs and Broomsticks – nightclothes, jeans and hoodies bounding around the stage with personality and cunning. This extended scene, entertaining in itself, was somewhat two-dimensional, though the antics were clearly humanising, and the empathy of the situation was engaging and enriching for the audience. The movement vocabulary was set to impress, these obviously talented dancers performing complex movement phrases with impressive ease. Blackstock is clearly a choreographer who likes to entertain, and with his band of black-unitard-cum-clothing helpers, he certainly succeeded, his exit littered with numerous bouts of applause.


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Resolution! penny & jules dance, Wayne Parsons, Botis Seva

This Resolution! triple bill saw all four choreographers performing in their pieces, something not unusual for Resolution! where funds are tight (or, in many cases, non-existent). As is also not unusual for this new dance platform, the night’s offering was a mixed bag.

As the hashtag in the title might indicate, social media was the theme of penny & jules#Factory. The audience were encouraged to tweet @pennyandjules during the piece - a live feed(back) in dialogue with their exploration of how we use social media not just to share, but to create our lives. The two solos that opened the piece showcased the dancers’ fluidity and comfort with the floor. However, with the introduction of the technology (a video projection mash of photos, footage of the dancers, programming code, and overly-long quotes), the potential established in the opening section was soon lost. While there were some interesting concepts at play - the relationship between the individual and their virtual self, for example - they only occasionally came across. The performers were dominated by the technology, but there was not enough in the video projections to really interest. Was this irony intended? Unclear.

Wayne ParsonsMeeting was the gem of the evening and clearly the work of a more experienced choreographer. Although this was Parsons’ London choreographic debut, National Dance Company of Wales has toured three of his works (he danced for NDCW, along with Sydney Dance Company and Richard Alston Dance Company) and he has also created a work for Monmouthshire Youth Dance Company.

A duet between Parsons and Katie Lusby, Meeting explores the distortion of memory and how a story changes with each retelling. The performers compared notes on their movement, correcting and adjusting each other as they went along. Sometimes these corrections were good-natured, other times less so; the power dynamic between the two performers shifted back and forth as they negotiated their conflicting memories. Oscillating between simple gestures and more expansive, dynamic outbursts, the movement was characterised by idiosyncrasies. These gave the choreography freshness, offering moments of oddity and humour that charmed. 

Exploring the distortion of memory might be the conceptual intent, but, ultimately, Meeting’s accomplishment lies in its intelligent insight into the dynamics of a two-person relationship. Alternating between bickering and agreeing, being vulnerable and in control, the underlying dynamic between the two performers was one of tenderness. Parsons and Lusby’s strong, genuine presences resonated powerfully, conveying an endearing sense of humanity, with all its quirks and flaws, throughout their Meeting.

Place in Between is a solo created and performed by Botis Seva. It opens with Seva facing away from the audience in a soft pool of light. He moves slowly from one side of the stage to the other, the spasmodic, almost violent movement concentrated in his torso. This piece challenges the audience to slow their pace right down and be present with the performer in his slow, tortured struggle. This is an exploration of faith: from the kyrie-like music to the lighting suggesting church windows to the praying and genuflection, religious references abound. The texts scattered across the floor may be another religious reference, but this is unclear; they do not add much.

Seva’s strong presence and inward focus is powerful and his slow progress through space provides something akin to a meditative experience. However, the theme is a large one and the development of the piece doesn’t accomplish as much as it could. Despite compelling imagery, something gets lost in the telling, and at twenty-five minutes in length, I wonder if his drawn-out internal struggle is, ultimately, worth it.

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Resolution! Joe Lott Dance, Scope Dance Theatre, Sven K Dance

Tonight's triple bill found a breakdancing quartet in Palette, mapping and painting their movements as a disparate drawing was formed, sandwiched between two similarly science-themed contemporary pieces, Chemistry and Heart of Matter.

Joe Lott's Chemistry, in response to Mendeleev's dream of the elements and how the periodic table came to existence, evoked a vision of dancing atoms that, as the music shifted in dynamic, sparkled with gestural nuances. Two male and three female dancers grouped and split, shifting in and out of unison in a play of dancing particles fusing and separating to eventually form the elements in re-ordered pairs. Creating order out of more and more chaos through both floor patterns and dynamic expression would clarify and charge what was already there with the intensity and power associated with chemical fusion. Tension increased as the dancers repeated a simple hop, step and jump phrase in rectangular pathways crossing and intersecting each other's focus. This was possibly the most powerful section of the dance: there was room to play with the energy and complexity of the phrases, drawing the piece towards a crescendo.

Scope Dance Theatre's Nefeli Tsiouti both choreographed and performed with three dancers in Palette. Courageously attempting to marry a visual artist and dancers onstage in a mixture of narrative and metaphor resulted in a somewhat disjointed piece. Several moments of potential, such as the relationship between breakdancing and graffiti, which is historically significant in the development of breakdancing, are strong bases from which to explore choreography. The notion of the artist both painting the dancer and creating the dancer explored in a scene of faux puppetry showed humour and personality, but confused the purpose of the dislocated artist left at his easel. Flourishes of spins, windmills and jumps were glimpsed but then overshadowed by the attempt to bring so many disjointed themes together. Taking breakdancing out of the context of the battle stripped it of its expected function, but the multiple themes of Palette which replaced this lacked in depth and focus.

Sven K Dance closed the evening in a highly polished formal piece, Heart of Matter. Travis Clausen-Knight's grouping and floor patterns with five female dancers and himself conveyed powerful but transient relationships between them, inspired by the power of the Higgs Boson, the 'God Particle'. Constantly changing duets, in which the pairs seem to become magnetised by each other's presence potentially added a layer of power and gender play to a more abstracted work. The angular and linear style was abundant with staccato vocabulary, powerful statuesque positions and flurries of fluid gestures. The addition of a blue glow-ball had the potential to undermine the piece but, in a scene of dreamlike quality created by cool blue lighting and use of silhouette, it took on some gravitas. This glowing sphere of energy was revealed as a determining force in the interaction between the dancers whose groupings eventually dispersed into a circle encompassing Travis Clausen-Knight and the light. Experimenting with object play underpinned the final section choreographically, elevating it from a showy light display to an integral element of the piece.

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Resolution! Kansaze Dance, Porkpie Dance Theatre, Hack Ballet

Can we call dance works schizophrenic? And are the multiple personalities an intentional choice, or due to the result of choreographic indecision? And do we really want to know the answer to that?

Kansaze Dance's Looking Back, created by Rachael Kansaze Nanyonjo, is a very good example of a dance work with multiple identities. Dispensing with programme notes altogether, the audience was forced to piece together the context of the piece, from the opening 'I have a dream' speech by Martin Luther King, to badly-distorted footage of protests around the world and riot-influenced choreography.

At least, that was the context of part of Looking Back. The rest of the work used very sweet choreography, reminiscent of backing dancers, eliciting sweet and happy performances with interesting use of sculpture - but failing to match the impact of Maria Fonseca's performances, or her powerful duets with Jack Webb

Looking Back would have been a much stronger work if it had focussed more on Maria Fonseca and her strengths: the emotional and dramatic nature of her role brought out the best in her as a dancer, and made her absolutely compelling to watch; the rest of the cast lacked her personality and flair, and struggled to win over the audience in her absence, especially with less meaty choreography to work with.

If Looking Back had been reduced to Jack Webb's and Maria Fonseca's performances, it would have been an outstanding piece, and the best so far of this year's Resolution season. Unfortunately, their roles were too out of step with the rest of the cast's choreography and performances, which diminished the impact of the material - as did the technological problems, from the distorted projection to the blinded audience for the final scenes. One of the multiple personalities was brilliant, just not all of them.

If you look up the definition of Third Culture Kid, you find David C. Pollock statement "A Third Culture Kid (TCK) is a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents' culture. The TCK frequently builds relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership in any. Although elements from each culture may be assimilated into the TCK's life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar background."

This beautifully places Anaish Nathan Parmar's 'Mum... What's my gam?' in perspective: Parmar's exploration of his third-generation Indian roots, whether from the viewpoint of an adult trying to reconnect with his Asian heritage, or as a sulky recalcitrant child who is weary of curry and would much rather be playing cricket with his friends in Melton Mowbray.

Somita Basak, potraying Parmar's mother, is wonderfully skilled both at theatrical performances and at Bharatanatyam, and convincingly portrays Parmar's long-suffering mother, herself torn between her roots and assimilation. Parmar himself is a natural comic - but he's also an impressively fluid dancer, and it seems a shame that there's not more scope for dance within 'Mum... What's my gam?', as the audience no doubt feels cheated by not seeing more of both characters dancing.

Anaish Nathan Parmar has mentioned wanting to develop educational workshops with 'Mum... What's my gam?' for fellow "Third Culture Kids" to explore their roots, and there is definitely a lot of potential for this piece as an educational tool: it's accessible, entertaining and engaging - and it's got some wonderful dancing (if not nearly enough).

Hack Ballet's Zone offered the premise of contemporary ballet as an extreme sport, and it certainly delivered. Each of the six performers - including choreographer Briar Adams - was on edge, careful to keep the competition within sights, never allowing themselves to relax in case they suffer in the selection process. At times, the dancers seemed to be holding themselves back, but we knew that was because of the tough challenge ahead of them.

The use of solos allowed each dancer to distinguish his or her personality and physical strengths, from Natasha Usmar's strong character and expressiveness to Alice Gaspari's graceful and poised, yet heartfelt performance.

The group sections were not always as effective; they were at their most powerful when artfully lit by Antony Hateley, for example the dancers in silhouette holding dynamic yoga poses against a lit cyclorama, or as a shadowy mass of figures while a partially-lit dancer performs a solo. At times, however, Zone seemed to lose its way, either with too-literal choreography, or in floorwork, but at the opposite spectrum was one of Alice Gaspari's and Thomas McCann's duets, which brought a whole new level of energy to Zone, brief though it was.

As with many of the Resolution! performances, Hack Ballet has good dancers putting on great performances, with impressive strength and commitment.

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Resolution! Rubedo Dance; Selina Papoutseli, Tom Lyall & Cis O'Boyle; Anne-Gaëlle Thiriot

Resolution! has a way of challenging your expectations: the pieces you look forward to seeing aren't always what you thought they'd be, and other works on the programme often end up surprising you - and in a good way.

The first work on tonight's programme was by Dena Lague's Rubedo Dance. Dena Lague is known to many as being part of the Matthew Bourne family, and indeed, a number of her dancers were familiar from past works by both Matthew Bourne and Drew McOnie.

The programme notes for Gestus - "Five dancers share the space to explore facets of their individual characteristics and energies" - suggested that the work would be largely improvised, and indeed the opening solo by Kanako Nakano felt more improvised than rehearsed, due to its spontaneity. The second solo, by Grace Hann, seemed to have Isadora Duncan influences, due to Vinci's expressiveness and fluidity; as Gestus developed, the Isadora Duncan influences appeared to multiply. 

Gestus appears to have been driven by the dancers' individual movement rather than by Dena Lague's choreography, however the most interesting dynamics of the piece were when the dancers interacted, forcing them to break out of their self-absorbed bubbles. And Carrie Johnson deserves a special mention of her own: her solo was more engaging than the others, as she's the kind of dancer who immediately draws the audience in. Great performances by great dancers, even if the material could have had more impact.

Butoh is both challenging to perform and to watch, so it was a surprise to see it on the Resolution! programme - and even more of a surprise to see it performed relatively well.

Sadler's Wells describes Butoh as "highly charged stillness and very embodied slow motion" (source:, and while Selina Papoutseli and Tom Lyall didn't fully accomplish either aspect - the former through selecting poses which were difficult to sustain over longer periods of time, the latter through moving a little too quickly at times - a 15-minute piece is too brief for conventional butoh, and Papoutseli and Lyall succesfully conveyed the ethos of butoh in a bite-sized portion.

This is butoh. Selina Papoutseli stood on tiptoe, holding a twig aloft. After a very long time, she lifted her other arm. And then she shifted her focus to the branch. Behind her, Tom Lyall carried a yellow cube and red pompoms. In a work like this, you appreciate the tiny details: the striking imagery, the effectiveness of Selina Papoutseli's facial expressions, especially as she struggled to maintain a pose, and the impact of Cis O'Boyle's striking lighting design. Most inspired of all was the scene where the audience watched the muscles in Lyall's back move - that's a very impressive piece of choreography in itself. Butoh isn't to everyone's taste, so Selina Papoutseli and Tom Lyall are to be congratulated for making it more accessible to tonight's Resolution! audience.

It might have seemed surprising to have a 25-minute solo last on tonight's programme, but only people unfamiliar with Anne-Gaëlle Thiriot's work would have thought that.

As the audience filed back into the auditorium, a disembodied voice announced that "the next tour is about to start", while the set consisted of hanging laundry bags, with piles of discarded laundry underneath. Once Vertigos was ready to start, Anne-Gaëlle announced that the tour guide was absent and that she would be taking his or her place, and proceeded to hand flags to two people towards the rear of the audience: "in case somebody gets lost during the tour, please wave your flag."

The clothes on the stage became part of the story, affecting Anne-Gaëlle's movement style and persona: we saw her become a diverse array of the characters, as each item of clothing gave her the opportunity to revisit memories and previous incarnations of herself.

Vertigos is a stream-of-consciousness solo which takes the audience on a personal, if very exhausting journey, always telling a story even if the audience doesn't always know what it's about. Anne-Gaëlle Thiriot is extremely engaging and compelling to watch, bonding well with the audience, and able to hold an audience captive, whether performing her own version of beatboxing, or in the haunting final scene, with an ethereal song by Hamlet Gonashvili ( accompanying her duel with the laundry bags.

At 25 minutes in length, Anne-Gaëlle Thiriot's Vertigos is a rich and rewarding experience: if only it was in the Place Prize finals, where it belongs!


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