Feature: Get moving - with Music to Move to

Wednesday 26 November 2014 by Alice Frances

Harnessing the power of music, movement and the internet, Fuel Theatre’s imaginative Music to Move to aims to inspire every and anyone to perform from the comfort of their own homes – or where ever they feel like, writes Alice Frances.

Backed by Dance Umbrella and The Space, a select handful of acclaimed composers working in a diverse range of musical styles have each been commissioned to create an original piece of music that professional choreographers have then interpreted into movement. Over the past few weeks, the invitation has been extended to the wider public, with home made video submissions flying in, interpreting the tunes with a multitude of means and moves. With the general invitation to upload open until 19 December, let’s take a look at the professional performances first….

With a track record of high profile projects working with the likes of Tina Turner and Kylie Minogue (as well as Rambert and Sydney Dance Company, where he’s now Artistic Director), it’s not a surprise to find Rafael Bonachela’s submission has a commercial quality to the production. A good match then, for dance pop diva Little Boots and her Indigo track, which true to form matches electropop beats to soft melodic vocals. The choreography plays satisfyingly on these beats, but styles it out with abstract contemporary moves. Some physical word play occurs, but it’s mainly the pace of the performance, which marries up with the song, by moving into slow motion to match the build of the repetitive electro rhythms. Vertically blurring the body movement also adds to the digitised vibes of the track.

Vicki Igbokwe vogues up the jaunty folk melodies of John Boden’s All Hallows with super fun sassy style. Boden has made a name for himself on the folk scene, not only as part of award winning Bellowhead, but also for pushing the boundaries of the genre through his solo work. Gratifyingly Igbokwe, as creative director and choreographer of Uchenna Dance and currently researching waacking, house dance and vogueing, takes a similar approach to her work. Her research come to the forefront in All Hallows, adding fierce energy to the already complex music. It’s a personal favourite for me, for the ease with which it bridges the gap between the dance style and the genre of the song. Staying true to the organic nature of the project, the relaxed positive vibes throughout makes the piece seem like an improvised jam, in the best possible way.

Striking a pose in a different way Jenna Lee gives a contemporary ballet take on Nico Muhly’s Short Process. Muhly is no stranger to the dance world having created pieces in the past for the likes of Paris Opera Ballet and Netherlands Ballet. Short Process is not your typical ballet score though; it’s an atmospheric track of white noise guitar chords, which slowly melts behind a soft tinkling piano riff. Lee’s choreography responds with a smart, semi-sensual duet. Taking place in the graffiti adorned Meat Liquor restaurant; the setting compliments the grungy guitar tones, adding grit to this poised piece. On point in more ways than one.

There are a few graffiti marks in Jamila Johnson Small’s choreography for The Meow Meow’s raucous Friends on Benefits. Mashing up genres is something the Brighton based Meow Meows are used to, with their music picking up influences from ska to soul, via garage and rock n roll. Johnson Small makes the most of this, applying a conceptual approach to the performance. Set in an urban living space, an appropriately mod punk performer plays on the syncopated ska beats with itchy, stretchy, swirly contemporary moves. She isn’t alone in the room, with three disinterested people occupying some of the armchairs dotted around. An audience doesn’t seem to be what she’s looking for though, as her distracted journey feels full of restless energy waiting to be occupied. A clever and fitting interpretation of the song and its lyrics.

Composer, music producer and co-founder of Blue Boy Entertainment, Mikey J’s influence on the urban music scene is well acknowledged. Merging his urban grime roots with flavours of bhangra in the aptly titled Fuel for Thought provides useful fodder for classical Indian danseuse Hemabharaty Palani. Transporting us through the residential, country and cityscapes of Bengaluru, India, Palani uses the persistency of the grimy drum’n‘bass to create a dynamic yet personal postcard of the city. Her background in yoga, kalaripayattu and capoeira shine through her performance, each move considered, controlled yet swift.

Huang Yi approaches Xiao He’s A Falling Leaf with similar intense consideration. In this case however, the movement manifests through digital manipulation. This is perhaps expected of Yi, whose celebrated work stems from an interest in the human/robot relationship. An intriguing collaboration then, with He, who is an ambassador for experimental folk in China. The undulating acoustic rhythms in A Falling Leaf provide a meditative backdrop for Yi’s interpretation, called Sand. Yi’s body slowly merges and morphs by digital means through still, closed poses. Although a highly minimal, dark production, the effect is not unlike an interchanging human sandscape. Paired with the music, this piece succeeds as a reflective yet progressive channel between the traditional, modern, natural and digital worlds.

The collision of worlds is evident in the public response too. Submissions so far have covered everything from body popping to dad dancing, via a grooving life size box of tea. For those who thought creating choreography was reserved for the professionals, Music To Move To is powering a public performance revolution to prove otherwise.
You have until 19 December to join the force!

Alice Frances is a writer and dance enthusiast who also writes for her own dance blog www.the411435.com. Find her on Twitter

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