All dance bases were covered at Firefly, Cloud Dance Festival’s summer offering. Although not all hit a home run, anyone wanting to catch a glimpse of the variety of artists in dance today would have been mad to miss it.
Saturday night’s innings opened on a slightly solemn note with Exquisite Corpse | Dance Theatre’s Valhöll. As the dancers tussled and wrestled amongst each other, it was clear that this piece, which examined conquest and afterlife of warriors and the slain, was a game of survival of the fittest. Rippling upper bodies and split-second head flicks accentuated the dancers’ animalistic qualities as they sought out their prey. Occasionally, this piece displayed Cunningham-esque attributes through constant quick change of direction and precise movement vocabulary. However, with such dense choreography, I had to choose an area of the stage to watch and so forfeited some of the action.
In contrast, James Finnemore’s Patriot observed our compulsion for routine repetition. As Finnemore crept on stage to the words: ‘This is how he expects everything to be’, he soon disappeared leaving the audience with a bare, dark space. When he finally returned, he to’ed and fro’ed across the stage never really getting anywhere but always moving in an entirely logical and sequential manner. The audience could see his frustration build until he walked off to where he had come from, probably in preparation to do it all again.
From predictable behaviour to out of the ordinary episodes, Slanjayvah Danza’s Lunar-tic explored the imbalance within a person, created by nature’s cycles. As a red, silk dress-clad Jenni Wren basked in the light of the spotlight-come-moon, the audience witnessed her various transformations. Erratic twitching of shoulders and long, upward reaches were combined with twisted poses that suggested Grecian connotations. Each movement became more frantic as the light shaped Wren’s state of mind, however, the limited variation of movement fell a little flat.
Gerrard Martin Dance’s D-Illusion displayed a movement dialogue between a woman and her mirror image. In this duet, Vanessa Abreu’s psyche (embodied by fellow dancer, Claire Talbot) literally clung to her, whilst playing devil’s advocate with her self-esteem. She took over control of all reasoning and decisions; at one point shuddering shoulders suggested that she had encouraged her to quite grotesquely force herself to vomit. This piece occasionally toed the line of cliché, but it was well-executed and clearly delivered its intention.
Taste Water Again by James Cousins Dance was a stunning display of gifted dancers which depicted a female’s quest for resolve having encountered a traumatic experience. The sound of water cascaded through the ensemble as Katie Lusby physically battled her demons before our eyes. She would gaze on at the tight-knit team around her, trying to rediscover her place amongst the intricate foot work, impressive tableaux and engaging unison sections, to then unexpectedly breakaway into anguished-filled, limb-soaring solos. The piece found its resolution perfectly as she simply faced the other dancers and walked on through them.
A decidedly more balletic duet from Ross Cooper, This is Winter, was the penultimate piece of the evening. An opening sonnet performed by Matthew Hawkins and music from Vivaldi helped to set the slightly chillier scene. In regards to the movement, occasional references to ice skating and putting on coats were embedded in a highly technical piece which appeared a little disjointed; Hawkins watching on, the chairs and the poem seemed to overcrowd the piece when the clearly capable dancers would have more than sufficed. Don’t get me wrong, each element of this piece looked and sounded great, I’m just not sure how it worked as one entity.
Kristen McNally’s Don’t hate the player, Hate the game performed by Tommy Franzén left no dance genre unturned. Franzén sauntered from popping, to breaking, mime and contemporary seamlessly. However, writing this made me question: why is this noteworthy? If a breaking move fits in the music alongside contemporary, why should it be out of context? It’s all dance, isn’t it? Although McNally will admit: ‘it was based on my interest in the Stanford prison experiment and our nature to conform to a perceived ideal. As always it ended up a million miles from this!’ I’ll forgive a tangent when it’s this enjoyable to watch!
As I left the Pleasance Theatre, I couldn’t help but feel like I’d just read a Dance Encyclopaedia. Not only so many styles, but a variety of different choreographers at different stages in their career, all representing the same event. Obviously that’s one of the great things about a platform such as Cloud Dance Festival. One thing was for sure, I couldn’t wait for my chance to relive Tommy Franzén’s solo the following night.
Written for Cloud Dance Festival by Celia Moran.