Thursday, 29 December 2011

Dance Fragments

8/12/11 The Hat Factory, Luton

The triple bill began with Sarah Levinsky’s Plastic Island, which constructed a landscape of plastic carrier bags centre stage.  The piece consisted of four female solos, each entering the stage and interacting with the bags to create different relationships.  Each dancer displayed a sense of individuality within their movement, and the most impressive element to this performance was the realisation that all the dancers were improvising.  As the night’s pieces were all works in progress, Levinsky had decided not to set anything at this stage of her investigation.  Plastic Island delivered an intense, alienated atmosphere which transported the audience to another world – or foreign island as the title insinuates.  The sculpture of carrier bags added connotations of mass consumerism and environmental issues, and I predict the concluding product to be captivating.

Kolesk Dance’s Julia Cheng  followed the first piece with her solo, Hat & Ball.  Whilst Cheng has an undeniable original, interesting movement style and stage presence, the choreography completely lacked sophistication.  The title left nothing to the imagination – the piece centred around a hat and a ball for choreographic inspiration.  However, the solo received good feedback from the members of the audience from a non-dance background, who could relate to the non-narrative style and enjoyed the hybrid mix of dance styles that Cheng always delivers.

The Hat Factory saved the best till last as Helen Parlor ended the night with her new work Close/Distance.  This piece of dance theatre used interesting characters to give a voyeuristic insight into the minds of those people who live nearby and we pass regularly in the street – but don’t bother to interact with.  The performers delivered well executed lines to enhance the dancing narrative, and all gave incredibly believable performances.  It was hard to believe that this piece was also in the early stages of development, as the relationships between the dancers seemed so natural that one would presume they had worked together for years – when in fact in reality it was just ten days. Close/Distance was dynamic and thought provoking, and I am waiting with baited breath to watch the final production when it tours next year.  

Odissi Ensemble - Shades of Love

17/11/11 The Hat Factory, Luton

Having never experienced an Asian Dance performance, I was an eager audience member anticipating Odissi Ensemble’s debut showing of Shades of Love.  So were plenty of others, as the crowded theatre in Luton’s Hat Factory was buzzing with excitement.  As the dancers enter the theatre in darkness, the anticipation rises with the jingle of the bells around their feet.  This leads into the first of seven individual dances, in which each one tells a different story, and the bells induce a rhythm that always matches perfectly with the music.

The style itself is definitely separated from the stereotypical Indian dance that is now commercialised.  The intricate and unique isolations are delivered by the dancers with such precision, along with a great sense of musicality towards the choreography.  The dances also demand a high level of expression within the face, and at times the dancers are literally miming situations, to engage the audience in the story.  Some could find this a bit too literal, but I thought it was conveyed well and gave a context to the pieces that needed it.  Other sections did not have a set theme and relied mainly on the musical –bodily connection; yet even in these pieces strong relationships between the dancers were evident.  The classical choice of colourful costume, jewellery and make up added to the glamour and culture of Odissi and complemented the choreography beautifully.

As someone who generally leans towards contemporary dance, it was so refreshing to see this antithesis dance form, and I enjoyed it for its differences.  The current trend in dance theatre is to strip the dancers down – emotionally and physically – in regards to costume we often see neutral colours and a lot of bare skin, coupled with emotionless, serious faces.  In Shades of Love the dancers were often smiling, allowing their genuine happiness to shine through to the audience – and this was uplifting.  Odissi Ensemble are aiming to increase the profile of this niche Indian Dance style, and with audience members describing it as magical I think they are on they way to success.