Cloud Dance Festival ‘Showtime’
Sunday 17th November 2013
By Charlotte Arnold

‘Showtime’ is Cloud Dance Festival’s fourteenth platform and, most excitingly, the first to receive Arts Council Funding. Sunday night’s mixed bill of eight pieces showcased a fusion of exciting, young and emerging choreographers spanning a range of profound and almost unpredictable topics.

Taciturn, a female dance company hailing from Liverpool, opened the final evening with a new piece commissioned by MDI and DiGM for Moving Dance Forward. Their attempt to highlight, and in that, celebrate all things feminine with ‘Femme’ is admirable. In a dance world where there is arguably a lack of female dominance, this duet constructs a sassy representation of women, where dancers Jenni Hale and Lizzy Rider can be seen to unite in their gestural preening and hip swaying. With an almost catty determination, this duet competes for the spotlight. Initially facing away from the audience in identical black dresses and white wigs, the removal of identity forces the audience to seriously consider this examination of feminism.

TheMiddletonCorpus, formed by Anthony Middleton in 2011, draws on his dance experiences and as an international acrobatic gymnast to create ‘articulate and hypnotic movement’. Within the explorative solo ‘Manuum’, which is Latin for ‘hand’, Middleton follows a natural progression from wooden manipulation - as instigated by opening with an artist’s moveable mannequin - to a more fluid and organic human state. Underpinned by the staccato movement and music, Middleton explores the faculties and capabilities of the human hands with a supple concordant dynamic. It is the simplicity of concept and direction that presents Manuum as a charming and polished piece.

Kirill Burlov, in his ‘Untitled Work’, emanates a sort of frustration and corporeal agitation. The collaboration with the live violinist Satoko Fukuda at times complemented Burlov. Yet, through a sort of discordant power, and a frenzy of picking and runs, Fukuda contests with Burlov’s physicality, transforming the stage into an intense power struggle. It is the combination of Kirill’s enigmatic movement - that lends itself to the title Untitled Work - and the visceral quality of both sound and aesthetics that places the audience on the edge.

In contrast, there was something very touching about Simfra Dance Company’s duet ‘Don’t Let Me Go’. Their tactile handling of weight conveyed an unspoken understanding of trust between the two as they discussed the struggles within homosexual relationships. With the integration of text to verbalise the moment language, it is apparent that what was presented was two entities that live for one another and if they were to be separated they would not be able to survive by themselves. A piece that dancers Conquista and Donati have developed from their time at Rambert School, it is encouraging to see the choreographic ambitions of the newly-graduated performed on a larger platform.

Shobana Jeyasingh dancer, Avatâra Ayuso, presented two works, both intriguingly agile and yet remaining separate pieces in their own right. ‘Balikbayan,’ performed by dancer Estela Merlos, is a work in progress that looks at Filipino female migration and its cultural effects. Merlos moves across the stage in a bewildered and almost primal fashion. A long ruffled skirt pulled up to obscure her face, she repeatedly crosses the stage, slowly dropping the skirt to her ankles as if there is a methodology about it. Her heavy footedness and athleticism serves to really grapple with the ideas behind the piece. Meanwhile, ‘Dalcroze’, the second piece performed by Ayuso herself, sees her slink and wriggle across the stage in a bewitching gestural solo. Using the idea that ‘rhythm is infinite’, Ayuso is buoyed by impulse and suspense. Her shadow projected on the backdrop creates the impression of a seamless duet and serves to intensify Ayuso’s idiosyncratic exploration of rhythm.

“Skill will give the illusion of normality” was just one concept that drove Jo Meredith’s piece ‘Chimera’. As a blue backdrop melts into yellow, it serves to frame this thought-provoking and teasing piece about illusion and delusion. Through the medium of spoken word and two duets, Meredith creates an atmosphere of suspense, pleading and affection that contrasts one another like the changing backdrop.

John Ross Dance closed the evening with a completed version of the piece previewed in the July festival. ‘Wolfpack’ is unashamedly masculine, as John Ross takes four perhaps less conventional male dancers and presents a laddish reconstruction of a night where anything could happen. Playing into male stereotypes, each dancer is transformed into his own playful, curious and inherently male character. From showboating, flirting with the audience and a rendition of the Macarena, this clumsy gang transports us from beginning to end with a comical yet foreboding narrative.

It is motivating to see a variety of new and established choreographers presenting their work in ‘Showtime’. All eight pieces explored topics that are consistently of a questioning nature. They demand a physicality of both the body and the mind and bring an enthusiasm for the evolution of contemporary dance. It is thus forth imperative that the work of director Chantal Guevara and all those involved in the production of Cloud Dance Festival can continue to provide an avenue for emerging choreographers to present their work in the future.