An honoured Bethnal Green played host to the final festival of 2009 produced by Cloud Dance Festival. Once again Cloud Dance Festival is back with a programme of exciting, innovative and groundbreaking pieces, giving London the opportunity to witness emerging and professional companies alike present their new work. This season, Cloud Dance Festival: Parade acts as a ‘best of’ for the festivals with companies selected by Cloud Dance Festival from this year’s previous events. Sunday evening saw a full house support seven organisations showcase their most recent works.
The show opened with a dance interpretation of Frederico Garcia Lorca’s The House of Bernarda Alba. An ambitious undertaking by Diciembre Dance Group to relay the complex tragic plot the Spanish playwright is known for, especially with out resorting to the facility of language. However Diciembre successfully transport us to the world of the play; a rural Spanish village, though the clever use of design elements. Hand fans, a common Spanish accessory, were used not only in the choreography but to add to the soundscape of Alberto Garcia’s score. The flicking, fanning and spreading of the fans were combined to create a montage of sound, immediately locating the performance aurally as well as visually. Choreographer Lucía Piquero also utilized the rhythms of the Spanish language, adding to the rich, woven experiential element of ‘Bernarda Alba’. The choreography effectively communicates the lead characters; the strong committed movement of the austere and oppressive mother Bernarda Alba, yet the tragic story of Adela, the youngest daughter is told through delicate but passionate performance.
A rare Christmas treat for the audience was the chance to see Sophia Hurdley explore the possibilities of choreography. Previously a dancer with New Adventures, Hurdley has an eye for detail whilst still maintaining a bold and stylised creative approach to the piece as a whole. Whilst currently a work in progress, Callas smoothly blends dance, film projection, as well as drama, promoting Hurdley’s skills with multi-discipline performance. The VT clips act as a vehicle for transporting the audience back to the glamorous era of the late 1950s. By utilising the direct interview by .J Murrow, we meet a personal and self-reflective Sophia Hurdley as Maria Callas. Hurdley not only physically resembles Callas but as the score rouses we can almost see the music running through Hurdley’s veins. The choice to not include singing is not an issue as like Callas, Hurdley breathes the score and the connection with music is what is significant. Passionate and intense, Callas focuses on the legend’s infamous relationships, both with her career and the powerful Aristotle Onassis. An emotional highlight is when we witness Callas watching Onassis embark on his love affair with Jackie Kennedy. As the couple perform a duet, contructed of loving partner work Callas echoes the same choreography with the aid of a solitary chair. As Onassis lifts Jackie, Callas struggles but achieves the effect of mirroring their routine. A powerful glimpse into the obsessive world of Maria Callas. The piece is executed to top quality and it is only in the development of the story that we are aware that Sophia Hurdley is presenting a work in progress. I eagerly await the progression of the piece and the opportunity of gaining an insight into more of the legend’s life.
Lila Dance and the performance of Here, Still Here, Still was genuinely mesmerising. By stripping the performance of production elements Lila focused on dance and the possibilities the body can achieve. Just a sole dancer, Carrie Whitaker, dressed in minimal cami-top and briefs, was all the audience had to watch and all they needed to. Choreographers Abi Mortimer and Carrie Whitaker have celebrated detailed and intricate movement achieving an innovative and exploratory language of movement. Fixated, the audience watch as Carrie Whitaker moves in ways they had never contemplated before. Her immense control and understanding of her body ensures she can manipulate her centre of gravity often achieving what appear to be gravity defying poses. Resonant of the style of break-dancing but executed at a far more measured pace, the audience can appreciate the skill, strength, muscle control and discipline needed to achieve such moves. Imaginative floorwork continuously amazed, as Whitaker manipulated her way across the stage by use of rare body contacts; with just a hip and a shoulder she managed to sidle in the most compelling travelling manner. The dedication of Lila Dance to creating a new discourse for dance is commendable and confirms that ‘Here, Still Here, Still’ is far from just a research piece.
Sezdrenah Dance Theatre embarked on an investigation of the psyche with a performance of Free Me out of Existence. An all-male cast sensitively broach the battle between the various voices which combine to create personality. By having a central character Sezdrenah were able to centralise the effects of the conflicts, allowing the audience the opportunity to connect to the emotion of the piece. Inspired choreography, involved echoing of the voices’ steps by the central character, demonstrating when he was influenced and by whom. A striking moment was when the three voices ran and kicked against the main body, using his torso as a springboard, elevating the height of their jump. At times the piece would benefit from more spatial awareness between the company, giving the choreography more of a determined location and more complicity between the performers which would also cement their sense of timing. Although broad and heavily muscular, the central character had sensitivity to his performance and an eloquent grace in interpreting the fight between the egos.
With a blurb stating ‘pure and literal escapism’ complementing the piece Groundlings, a joyful exploration of choreography and showmanship follows. Sol Dans begin with the abstract choice of stretching cling film across the width of the stage, along the backdrop and also between the front wigs. The transparency of the border creates a restricting environment for the company whilst still allowing the audience to observe the piece. With backcombed hair and intricate body paint the all-female company embark on a bold choreography. By not providing a detailed synopsis Sol Dans encourages the audience to be creative in their interpretation of the piece. The animalistic style promotes the inference of ritualistic and tribal themes. The climax of the piece centres on the tearing of the front cling film freeing the company and uniting them with the audience.
Nexus Dance returns to Cloud Dance Festival with not one but two pieces. A hit from July Of Nothing is a snapshot from the acclaimed Soul Notes. Once again Josh Ben-Tovim executes Sian Hopkins’ choreography faultlessly. The piece complements the dancer’s physique, making the most of his expansive body span as he intuitively interprets Tom Kirkpatrick’s score. The choice to include live guitar in the second piece They Who Have Wings was most refreshing. Sian Hopkins and Tom Kirkpatrick have developed a precious collaboration where the creation of dance performance is evenly shared between composer and choreographer. The inclusion of live music achieves an organic performance as Hopkins and Kirkpatrick react, engage and influence each other with an intense immediacy, which the audience are privileged to observe.
Closing the show for Cloud Dance Festival was the treat Pendulum by Ballet Black. Known for their neoclassical approach to ballet, Ballet Black held their audience captivated. A couple explored the pendulum of their relationship, delving into the possibilities of intensive partnership work but also the dynamism of combat movement. Beautiful extension and jealousy-evoking strength is demonstrated as the pair performs a succession of lifts, and balances. The dancers should be heralded for their immense control and compatibility when executing simultaneous slow turns. Balance is one thing, but shuffling the heel of the standing foot to change the direction whilst appearing smooth and transitional is difficult. That Ballet Black extends this difficulty by the pair turning at the same time deserves acclaim. Technically brilliant and aesthetically elegant as well as striking Pendulum is one not to miss.
Parade celebrates a successful year for Cloud Dance. Returning companies highlight the appreciation of London’s contemporary dance scene for the platform to introduce new work. This is an essential process in the development and progression of new pieces, as choreographers identify what to adapt and what communicates with an audience. Parade and its ‘best of’ theme demonstrates the talent and quality of work Cloud Dance Festival attracts. I can’t wait for next year!
Reviewed by Catherine Hooper for Cloud Dance Festival