Cloud Dance Festival ‘Showtime’
Sunday 17th November 2013
By Rebecca Holmberg

A line-up of strong, sleek, quirky choreographies, a wide range of interesting concepts, some extraordinary talented movers – nothing except the programme hints at the fact that Cloud Dance Festival is a platform for emerging artists. Initiated by Chantal Guevara in 2007 to support new contemporary dance, the show is now running for the fourteenth time, offering a sneak-peek at who might be the next big name on the British contemporary dance scene.

Personally, I’m hoping for Avatâra Ayuso who is attending CDF with two solos. Balikbayan, created for Rambert dancer Estela Merlos, starts fragmentarily. Brief images of different body parts flash by; legs, torso, back. In the darkness in between, there is the sound of bare feet shuffling. Eventually, Merlos finds herself buried in the masses of a most peculiar skirt that transforms around her body as she struggles to move with it. There is something about Balikbayan that I can’t quite figure out – and I like it. The choreography is intriguing and Merlos stunning. With her meticulous movement language, she manages to express at the same time fierce intention with the lost and unsure. Ayuso is not only a strong choreographer – her performance in second solo Dalcroze, is compelling. The movements, intricately woven together with the music, are direct and leave out unnecessary pathways.

It is a night of strong solos: Anthony Middleton’s Manuus is less explored in terms of choreographic ideas, but his physical performance is incredible. Incorporating gymnastic moves in a dance piece can sometimes come across as showing off, but as Middleton seem to defy gravity with his distinctive movement style, the ratio seem to be just right.

Kirill Burlov’s untitled work oozes frustration and angst as he twitches and jerks on the dimly lit stage. In the shadows dwells a barely visible creature, slowly crawling across the stage draped in black veils. Burlov is a charismatic dancer and his movements are, though restricted, very powerful. You get the picture pretty soon though, and not much more happens until the veiled creature re-appears on stage, unfolding a violin from her veils. From here on, Satoko Fukuda is the focal point of the piece. Her playing (Bach?) to the backing track of a pulsing beat offers a dark and quirky, but enthralling, juxtaposition.

John Ross brings us along on a boys’ night out where the Saturday night dance is flanked by the obligatory taking-off-my-shirt-moment and a visit to the urinal. Wolfpack could do with some editing but is surely entertaining – Ross has a sharp eye for recognisable scenarios and herein lie much of the strength and humor of this piece. However, as three of the boys put on animal masks, I start feeling confused about whether the bottom line is: “boys are animals” or “boys like to wear funny masks”. The typical lad behavior portrayed is a behavior I am not a particular fan of and I can not tell for sure whether Ross is simply reminiscing his good old lad days, or trying to problematise this culture. Considering the un-nerving music and an end that is reeking of hang over regrets in the cold morning light, I hope that it is the latter.

Shifting swiftly from male stereotypes to female: Femme by Taciturn is a suggestive, atmospheric piece promising to explore the many performances of a woman. Although the theatricality of some parts could have been pushed further, it is a neat little choreography that is simple to its format and an easy watch.

My main concern is that where this piece promises to look at the many performances of a woman, I only see a repetitive progression of wiggling butts, shimmying shoulders and a jostle for the prime place in the limelight. While that can be a part of “all that it is to be female”, it certainly isn’t limited to it, and Taciturn miss out on exploring the opportunities of an interesting subject.

Although Jo Meredith has the opportunity to demonstrate her flair for composition in Chimera, in my opinion - there is just too much going on. The four dancers are skilled and articulated, but the (slightly pretentious) text is hard to follow when read over a soundtrack of wistful strings, and seems to have little to do with what is happening movement wise.

In a similar way, I find that Don’t Let Me Go by Simfra Dance Company misses out on connecting the physicality of the piece with the recorded speaking. The choreography could well be taken from an episode of So You Think You Can Dance with its highly intensive, emotional theme backed by an equally intensive, emotional soundtrack. Beautifully moving or verging on melodrama? – take your pick. In whichever case, Francesco Conquista and Simone Donati are talented movers, and the duet is performed seamlessly with the highly physical contact work running smoothly and without effort. In fact, it is so sleek that there is little room for the tweaks and interaction that could make this piece more human. I wish there would be some sort of emotional reaction following lines like: “I will be the eyes of your soul”. Otherwise – what is the point?