Islington’s Pleasance Theatre tonight took host to Cloud Dance Festival’s 12th Festival to date, Firefly. The lights went down for the first time this evening for the beginning of a three-night, jam-packed festival of diverse, contemporary dance. A combination of young and emerging newcomers, and experienced, returning choreographers have come together for another Cloud Dance Festival that prides itself on embracing and staging talented dancers and choreographers from, not only our capital but from all over the country.

To begin this three-night spectacular, we open with Just Us Dance Company in which artistic director and Blueprint Bursary winner Joseph Yvan Toonga and co-director Ricardo Da Silva broach the notion of human contact and relationships that develop us as human beings. Four female dancers are poised together as a single light hits the stage for Picture Perfect? unveiling silhouette imagery and female togetherness. With a clear lack of any flashy costume that would distract from the beautiful movement, the performance plays out the notion of relationship and the complexities that lay beneath the physical closeness that is apparent on the surface.  Throughout the performance we see moments of duos; however, as the choreography develops we see smiles relieved from the dancers' faces revealing sorrow and many solos depicting inner struggles and sadness. The female unity reveals moments of happy togetherness contrasted with sad isolation as the movement depicts this very notion of seclusion.  

All-male dance company Udifydance Company presented Threads, choreographed for the company's two apprentice dancers Sam Harbour and Josh Parsons, the latter being replaced for this performance by Artistic Director and choreographer Christopher Reynolds. With a beautiful score by the company’s other Artistic Director Chay Burrows, the two young male dancers showed incredible togetherness and striking intensity as the music refused to dictate but rather complemented every single gesture and movement the dancers perform. The duet toyed and experimented with dynamics, in one instant we see incredulous control as the two young dancers move together instigating and controlling each other’s movement. In a second instant we see erratic and fast paced movement, with never a lack of intensity and faultless use of eye contact. Moments of synchronicity and the awareness the two men had of each others body were flawless. For me a highlight and a company to watch out for.

Dom Czapski choreographs and performs the solo Sea of Love and as the lights reveal an almost naked human body, the score, text written by Timothy Furstnau, tells the audience “one day you’re going to die”. A repetitive score, the movement relays the life cycle of the human body, Furstnau’s stimulus stating “there is no meanness in nature”, too which I find untrue; however the performance successfully explores the naturalness of human life.

To reel us back in after a short interval, Diciembre Dance Group present the life of Lewis After Wonderland. The notion that writer Lewis Carroll is haunted by his most infamous character Alice is explored by choreographers and dancers Lucía Piquero and Andrea Santanto. The piece begins as Santanto is joined on stage by his legendary character Alice in all her playful glory, portrayed by Lucía Piquero. The character slowly declines into a shadow of her former self. The piece was extremely effective and clever in its stimulus when depicting the notion of the reality of life after we leave our childhood behind and real life plays out.

New graduate Charlie Dixon Dance Company presents Wise Man, in an instant flash of light the electricity and energy of the piece is from the get go and sets the tone for the entire performance. The piece appears to play with and explore the notion of extremities; these wonderful dancers exude energy that reaches to the very fingertip. The dynamic slows midway through the piece but the control of the movement continues to be faultless with moments of beautiful togetherness. The dancers move together, whilst at moments revolting and fighting against as they “share the journey of evolution”.

Cloud Dance Festival saw a welcome return of contemporary jazz company Sol Dans to which founder and choreographer Melody Squire never seems to fail to reap energy across the stage in abundance. In broaching the subject of our economic downfall, Squire uses modern day fairytale to play out the demise of a community in Grimm Times. Her choreography is fabulously unique, mesmerising imagery fills the stage again, repeating the beauty we saw in her last work for Cloud Dance Festival, Ebullition.

Another return to Cloud Dance Festival came from Slanjayvah Danza with a performance of Lunar-tic, a title which wittily plays on words in its exploration into experiences of “craziness”. The solo performance came from founder and choreographer Jenni Wren. As her movements mostly confined to a spotlight on the stage, she played out the distress of imprisonment contrast with bursts of freedom as she fights the love/hate relationship with her inner self. The music becomes louder and unbearable as she fights against the inevitable outcome of the circle of life.

A penultimate performance of Taste Water Again came from contemporary company James Cousins Dance. A score of running water begins the performance, in which the focal point is female performer Katie Lusby. Lusby’s apparent despair is evident as the performance follows her struggles as she is often ignored and at time dictated by the other dancers. Cousins is a truly gifted choreographer as this piece provides a montage of beautiful imagery, exception moments of unison and excellent composition. A definite must-see performance.

And so we draw a close on the first night of Cloud Dance Festival, which, as always, staged a successful evening of diverse contemporary dance artists. With two more evenings to go this is sure to be a fabulous weekend of exciting dance.

Reviewed by Susanne Allen for Cloud Dance Festival