The final evening of Cloud Dance Festival’s Firefly, at the unique rustic setting of Pleasance Theatre in the heart of Islington was set to be a night to remember. The buzz around venue was evident even before the auditorium doors opened, with choreography from the Royal Ballet’s Kristen NcNally and performances from Deaf Men Dancing and the BBC's “So You Think You Can Dance” finalist Tommy Franzén, the evening was set to be a treat.
Beginning with .identi.co’s One, three female dancers on a dark stage, experiment with their own lighting through use of four lamps that, in turn, light up various parts of the stage and each performer. The performance begins with a solo from one of the dancers, whilst the other looks on, stood under a dim lit lamp. The music is mellow and there are moments of empathy and compassion for the soloist as she beautifully moves around the stage alone. As the performance develops there is a clear notion of experimentation in the energy and dynamic of the piece. The music and the movement transcend from slow, sustained and controlled, to fast paced disorder. The various solos, duets and trios that ran throughout this piece, combined with the interchanging of dynamic, made for an exciting spectacle, which was pleasure to watch.
Ella Robson Guilfoyle’s SHE was second on the bill and, as is expected from Cloud Dance Festival, this was in complete contrast to the previous performance. A combination of contemporary dance and physical theatre, this performance played out a scenario in which, two women are sat in a pub, each accompanied by a male partner. However the lack of movement and interaction with their partners portrays a situation in which, physically your partner is with you, however mentally and emotional you are in fact all alone. The movement from the female dancers explores their lack of confidence and security as they navigate around the tables and performance area. As the women begin to interact together, their confidence appears to develop and moments of reliance of each other become apparent.
This was followed by a fabulous exploration into the notion of “viral ideas”, which has become massively apparent in our increasingly consumer-led, throwaway society. From celebrity to popular music, what is top of the bill one day can be gone the next in the blink of an eye, and this unique take on “viral ideas” by Richard Bermange saw the notion of Virus in all its glory. From 80’s model-esque imagery at the beginning as two female dancers stand in white hooded costume and 2inch heels, to traditional pas de deux, this piece (despite the absence of one injured dancer) was dramatic, dynamic and exciting viewing.
A solo by Jennifer Hale, one quarter of Taciturn, saw a performance that was engaging, witty and less about the physical movement, but instead how we engage with a performance cerebrally rather than purely on aesthetical value. A turn or two saw Hale play out three sections of repetitive movement to popular songs including ‘Jolene’, in which the audience empathises and relates to the continuous head banging and teenage heartbreak that is played out. A refreshing and enjoyable performance.
Founder and choreographer of Deaf Men Dancing, Mark Smith and his company of four dancers and collaborators performed Sense of Freedom. Beginning with a fun and uplifting quartet, the dancers wear suits, sunglasses and Elvis wigs offering a humorous opening, to which they feel ever rhythm and every beat. Whilst this company was only established back in August 2010, the men have a unity like no other. They meticulously watch each other for visual cues with impeccable awareness for one another. As I expected, this was a treat to watch.
EDDance returned to Cloud Dance Festival with Stabat Mater: Dances About Loss. An honest insight into the pain of loss and grievance, this well-executed performance altered the tone of the evening. The performance came together through the use of subtitles and a score by Antonio Vivaldi, in which the dancers interpreted beautifully. The piece was packed full of unique and powerful choreography which was enjoyable from beginning to end.
Devaraj Thimmaiah’s Arranged Marriage saw a powerful duet performed by its choreographer alongside Fukiko Takase. Takase’s movement is effortless; her petite frame sees her move around the stage with such grace and poise. Together the dancers gave a stunning performance, offering various solos that showcased their contracting styles and duets that looked like contact improvisation as they used each other's body to instigate one move after the next. At moments their relationship looked to be falling apart, but their love was never in doubt as they held each other so firmly as the piece drew to a close. A beautiful piece to watch.
The evening drew to a close with an outstanding performance by Swedish-born dancer Tommy Franzén, with choreography by Royal Ballet soloist Kristen McNally. Don’t hate the player, Hate the game was truly worth the wait as Franzén plays out numerous styles from classical ballet to body popping and hip-hop, a style Franzén is renowned for, which was utterly superb. There has been a buzz of excitement surrounding Cloud Dance Festival this year like no other Festival before it, and for me, this performance was the reason. McNally’s unique choreography and Franzén’s mesmerising performance was breathtaking.
This evening as a whole will surely take some beating. Jam-packed with various styles of dance, Cloud Dance Festival never fails to deliver but tonight drew the curtain on a festival that has been exciting and unique from beginning to end.
Reviewed by Susanne Allen for Cloud Dance Festival