REVIEW: Cloud Dance Festival: “Showtime” – Bernie Grant Arts Centre, London, Friday 15th November 2013

 

AN INSPIRING EVENING SHOWCASING EMERGING CHOREOGRAPHERS.

 

Fresh. New. Talented. Evolving. Emerging. Whatever buzzword you opt for, Cloud Dance Festival’s opening Showtime line-up encompassed the most innovative up-and-coming new works from the world of contemporary dance.

Cloud Dance Festival (CDF) was founded in 2007 by Chantal Guevara to provide a platform for the ground-breaking choreographers and dance companies of the future. Showtime, held at the Bernie Grant Arts Centre, North London, is CDF’s first festival funded by Arts Council England.

Themes of the festival centred on striving to improve, finding your own path and being true to yourself. All while also developing as a young creative (whether a dancer, choreographer, dance writer, photographer or videographer).

 

Choreographer Jo Meredith (publicity shot by Mikah Smillie).

 

Tapping into this artistic ambition to progress, Lo-Giudice Dance opened Friday’s mixed-bill evening performance with Distant Light – a commission from The Royal Northern Sinfonia – reworked especially for Showtime.

Tasked with creating a visual stimulus to Peteris Vasks’ Violin Concerto, choreographer Anthony Lo-Giudice draws inspiration from the composer’s themes of independence, exile and segregation. Three female dancers step onto a dimly-lit stage, accompanied by the haunting music. Grounded movements and cleverly employed unison and interplay result in one of the trio always being separate – wanting to belong but not quite fitting in – and the piece effectively evokes a sense of yearning and desperation.

Rutherford Dance Company’s premiere of Me & My Shadow explores a different type of desperation – concerning the unpalatable acceptance of the dark side of our psyche.

A soloist stands under a spotlight beside a group of dancers cast in shadow. Tight ensemble work illustrates the experience of loneliness when constantly surrounded by others and conveys the soloist’s perceived ‘inferiority’. After shadowing simple arm gestures, the group dancers take on their own individualities – interacting with the soloist as the dynamics build. Smooth lifts, contact between the dancers and floor sections in which the shadow dancers roll onto each other to create layers demonstrate the company’s strong timing and originality.

The battle with the self is also observed in Rebecca Namgauds’ precisely executed Severed Dreams, another premiere. Three dancers in red, martial-arts inspired costumes conquer feelings of self-doubt and uncertainty in this energetic, warrior-like piece. The two men and one woman onstage may share the space but there is no contact or interaction between them and, as the pace steps up, it is apparent that they are engrossed in their own individual battles.

Quite understated in comparison, Kirsty Dawson’s What Lies Beneath offers no feats of flexibility or impressive technical challenges but is successful in creating an intimate contemplation of the concealed or unspoken.

Four female dancers writhe around on the floor, their gaze remaining low when they stand, faces mostly covered by their loose, long hair. A feeling of reluctance permeates, conveyed through a motif which sees the foot tapping twice as it is dragged along the floor towards the supporting leg, the body in side-bend. The choreography sees the girls literally ‘dragging their feet’ – perhaps demonstrating unwillingness to open up and give part of themselves away?

Opening up was not as issue for the couple performing Bricolage Dance Movement’s extract from Anna Buonomo’s Story of a Night Pianist. All the trials and tribulations of a husband and wife’s relationship are played out in this intense narrative piece, expressing the extreme jealousy the man harbours.

Both dancers brought power and ardour to their dancing, their turbulent marriage conveyed through fraught pushing and pulling towards and away from each other. The husband’s growing paranoia is communicated in every look, the wife’s fear palpable in every step – all before the ultimate crime of passion is committed.

After such feverous furore, Jo Meredith’s Chimera was a welcome flight of fancy.

Exploring the themes of illusion and delusion, Chimera features four dancers and live spoken word, with accompaniment from a beautiful cello and piano classical composition. The movement is clean and fluid and – while the script describes uncertainty and implausibility – the partnering and storytelling communicates conviction and intent.

Chimera possesses a delightful lyrical quality, unsurprising as Jo is a rising contemporary ballet choreographer (notably having created movement for the National Youth Ballet’s 2010 production of The Rainbow Bear). This whimsical piece, bathed in warm lighting, leaves the audience wondering whether what was just witnessed really did occur at all.

 

Cloud Dance Festival: Showtime

 

The audience could have been in no doubt when it came to the unforgettable marathon performance of Johnny Autin in Autin Dance Theatre’s Taksim Square Reloaded. Johnny tackles tough choreography with ease in this poignant work, inspired by those who protest and demonstrate for what they believe in.

Pulsing body ripples develop into frenzied running steps as he throws himself around. Defying gravity one moment, caressing the ground with rapid rolls across the floor the next, he leads us to believe he is surrounded and anxious to escape. Requiring incredible strength and vulnerability, the piece reminds us of the harsh realities people face across the world.

As with all the works showcased on this opening night, Taksim Square Reloaded demonstrates just what can be achieved through determination; social, political and personal awareness; and self-belief.

Cloud Dance Festival delivered an exhilarating first instalment of Showtime.

As part of its inclusive approach to the arts, CDF has plans to further develop the professional support on offer to dancers, choreographers, writers, photographers and videographers. Festival organisers have also highlighted a renewed pledge of commitment to broaden the variety of dance artists presented at upcoming events.

The importance of individuality, being true to yourself, collaboration and the notion that there is room for everyone are clearly sentiments deeply felt among all those involved in CDF. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.

 

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