It's been two years since Cloud Dance Festival last provided a platform for the abundance of emerging choreographic talent, but they returned on Saturday the 6th of July for their second evening at the intimate Bernie Grant Arts Centre in north London to present Lacuna, a programme highly anticipated and certainly one of all sorts.

‘The timeless beauty of classical technique with a passionate modern twist’ is indeed one way to describe Timeless, the evening’s kick-start. The multi-talented Merritt Moore and BalletBoyz’ Adam Kirkham embark on a passionately delicate exploration of beautiful line and tender encounter and while doing so, astonish with their effortless ability to achieve eloquence and vigour simultaneously.  

The spirit of this duet brings joy in itself, yet under the light wash Moore tantalises with her admirable poise, control and true classical line. Kirkham, not dissimilar, impresses as a firm facilitator of strength and subtle sensitivity as he lifts, supports and embraces Moore in a variety of ways. This divine duo achieve with great effect a satisfying balance of harmonious unison and daring interaction, and while exploiting the ‘timeless beauty’ that informs much of this piece’s physical content, the pair do well to challenge the fluidity that one might expect it to employ.

The stage in Gary Rowntree | Dance’s aptly titled work, The Light, is dark and seemingly in complete abandon until a large floodlight manipulated by a faint silhouette reveals differently. Entering from upstage, the figure slowly sheds light in to the space, and then on what looks like a naked body, lying vulnerable in one corner.

The light seems to act as a tool in revealing how one secretly lives uncomfortably in their own skin. Oona Doherty, in the most abstract fashion, delivers a stunningly intriguing performance as she delves deep in to the task of exploring and presenting a complex humanity. Writhing through the space like a lone animal in all manor of slides, dives and shifts, Doherty, when the light is agile enough to capture her, offers us not only an insight into human struggle, but also a unique perspective on how the body continues to evolve as being a vehicle in creating the most beautifully striking art.

Timed wisely to follow Rowntree’s mesmerising solo is a sneak preview of  John Ross’s Wolfpack. Firstly, it is refreshing to see four male dancers own the space, even if they are representing nothing but the typical ragged young male, but more importantly a bit of light-hearted humour can never go amiss. This quartet begins with a series of enticing tableaux, referencing with literal but quirky gestures how the stereotypical male seems to conduct himself once under the influence. Amongst some authentic drunk-guy-jigging-the-pack, Wolfpack also treats us to some glimpses of Saturday Night Fever which, following suit with the rest of the piece, is humorous and cleverly pitched to say the least.   

Kajdi’s M/S. P/E (Metamorphosis/Soldiers Poem/Experience), unlike the concept, is somewhat subtle. A large projection of the media’s take on world issues accompanies a lone figure sat on a chair. Her multi-directional reaches, matched carefully to the repetitive piano beat, hint at a sense of anguish and frustration. As numerous dancers appear the simple content is repeated, developed and manipulated into various groupings.

The second of Kajdi’s three episodes is perhaps the best. Two black-clad male dancers with satisfying energy, athleticism and precision invade the space as they revolve, lift, fly and jump. The duet with resembling regimentation speaks effectively of the experiences of being a soldier.         

A single silhouette proceeds to escalate into a stage full of two-toned green dresses as the cast of Hana Saotome’s Sombras do Tempo (shadows of time) revel in presenting a range of interestingly designed formations, intriguing gestures and dynamically fluid movement patterns.

Effective tools are used on the part of Saotome, which achieve some unique physical, visual and musical happenings. The dancers unite in attaining a sound technical ability, which they deliver with both power and elegance. Towards the end, the costumes are removed, leaving the collective vulnerable as they resemble with clarity, one’s sense of purity and self.  

Seemingly the most anticipated event of the night was Raymond Chai’s Unbroken Silence. Melanie Lopez and Oliver Freeston battle with power and passion against a constant flux of ‘attraction and rejection’. Demonstrated by both is Chai’s masterful desire for impeccable technique, but that said, there is no hindrance to the quirky contemporary visual. The music, which has a way of invading the theatre, replicates Lopez and Freeston’s captivating presence. The piece ends as the pair, like magnets, reluctantly force themselves to repel and part ways.       

Profusely leaking from James Finnemore’s In The Dry is maturity and modest sophistication. Each time initiated by a hunched back and a slow descent, Finnemore subsides to the pull of gravity and then clambers to his feet to start the process again. With his Shechter experience firmly intact, Finnemore seamlessly pervades the space, creating a somewhat mysterious but gentle atmosphere for the onlooker. Playing up to nobody and refreshingly in sync with his inner dynamism, he effective creates a presence that, coupled with a rich multitude of physicality, makes for a mesmerising and winning work.

To draw a close to the evening, John Ross returns to present his solo Man Down. A striking performance is delivered as Ross tells of ‘a true story of a soldier sent to Afghanistan who never came back’. With clarity and truthful gesture we are given insight into a world where one braves an everyday storm on the front line to protect his country, and then for him and those around, we see the consequences. Gunshots and news reports make for a realistic audio accompaniment and as the tension builds, in both movement and atmosphere, it can’t be helped but to ponder about the many to whom we owe our own lives.

Despite the somewhat gloomy ending, an enjoyable evening was had all round. The programme offered something to all and the choreographic and performance talent was outstanding. Cloud Dance Festival evidently returned with a promise to please, and that they certainly did.   

Reviewed by Bryony Cooper for Cloud Dance Festival