As any new choreographer will tell you, it takes time to fine-tune your style: what you want to create and how you wish to create it. So, when I discovered that Sunday evening’s Firefly was to be opened with a piece by a brand-new company comprised of mapdance graduates, I was intrigued.
.identi.co’s One started with one of four lampshades being turned on and off whilst the three dancers assembled into an accompanying freeze-frame. What followed was an interesting exploration into trios, duets and solos. The dancers toyed with where they stood and looked whilst they continually interchanged between fast-paced rolls on the floor and sustained, elevated phrases. This was accompanied by a somewhat tender sentiment to the piece, as if the dancers were looking out for each other on stage.
An experimental piece, One left me questioning what constitutes a solo? If the light doesn’t catch you, are you part of the trio? Can a duet be performed with someone who is completely still?
SHE by Ella Robson Guilfoyle displayed two female dancers’ personal stories and the common ground that they found in them. Drawing on a combination of pedestrian movement, the use of set and physical theatre, Guilfoyle demonstrated the support network that these two women had become for one another. Whether echoing each others’ movements or trying to guide one another to alternative pathways, it was clear that the boyfriends (who loitered around the stage) were their Achilles heel. I’m still undecided as to whether these two men were necessary additions to this piece. Regardless, it was a well executed demonstration of the crossover between dance and drama.
A steady stream of catchy songs and a factory line of dancers (despite one unfortunately being injured before curtain up) worked together to demonstrate ‘the pull of viral idea.’ Richard Bermange’s Chinese whisper-style choreography in Virus showed how fads can catch on and almost instantly be dropped in favour of the next big thing. A neverending flow of dancers gradually accumulated, dressed in hooded white ensembles and performing fluid balletic phrases. However, these phrases were subject to change, taking movement from cut loose solos and duets. Virus was upbeat, enjoyable viewing.
The only female solo of the evening came from Taciturn with A turn or two (inspired by Liz Aggiss). Performed by Jennifer Hale, she adopted the persona of a young teenage girl when conveying love, loss and life. Three distinct sections were dedicated to addressing each aspect of this piece. Whether girlishly skipping back and forth, collecting the flowers spread across the stage or desperately banging her head to ‘Jolene’, I couldn’t help but like the character presented before me. Despite a very minimal movement vocabulary, it was clear the audience could relate to the emotions that were laid bare on stage in Hale’s very literal and comedic way.
As four Elvis impersonators flooded the stage to the sound of the Pet Shop Boy’s ‘Always on my Mind’, I knew I was going to enjoy what was in store. Deaf Men Dancing’s Sense of Freedom took dancing to the music (or poem) to a whole new level. They accentuated every beat, gyrated to every rhythm and even mocked their accompaniment when they had to wait for a cue. Lyrical movement stood alongside body pulsing, hip thrusting and sign language, depending on the music that was playing. A perfect example of equally fun-loving and thought-provoking dance.
Completely altering the mood of the evening, EDDance’s Stabat Mater: Dances About Loss concentrated on grieving. At first, I failed to find the connection between what I was seeing and the programme notes, but soon realised that the subtleties in this intricate choreography made the piece. The sudden stops, drops to the floor and heaving upper bodies depicted the pain we feel when we lose a loved one. Accompaniment from Vivaldi offered the perfect backdrop to this sombre yet classical piece.
A duet with complete disregard for gravity and the restrictions of the human body helped to round off the evening, and Firefly. Devaraj Thimmaiah’s Arranged Marriage verged on acrobatic as Fukiko Takase and Thimmaiah navigated their bodies across the floor as if manoeuvring through motion sensors. After performing powerful solos, each with its own distinct style, they came together, adopting elements from both. They would occasionally bicker but would always find a way to move around one another, mostly in confounding and elaborate ways.
This was followed by Tommy Franzén’s cross-genre solo, a perfect ending to an eclectic festival.
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!
And so ended another Cloud Dance Festival. I think it’s fair to say that no stone was left unturned in the search for the future dance heroes, which is no easy feat for an event with no permanent home or funding. I think I can say with some confidence that any first timers (including myself) will be on the lookout for the next. Here’s to many more to come.
Written for Cloud Dance Festival by Celia Moran.