Review: Bloom Festival at Southbank Centre

Performance: 6 & 7 Jun 09
Reviewed by Libby Costello - Thursday 11 June 2009

ADAD, The Bloom Festival. 6-7 June, Purcell Room. Photo: Helen Burrows

This weekend saw the launch of The Bloom festival presented by the Association of Dance of the African Diaspora (ADAD) at Southbank Centre. With performances, free workshops, film and talks across the site this festival gave every opportunity to showcase dance of the African Diaspora.

The evening performance brought a mixed bill of work from up-and-coming black choreographers, dancers and companies. The big names included Freddie Opoku-Addaie, with his recent Robin Howard choreographic commission, and Avant-Garde Dance Company. But the surprises of the evening came from the unknowns: *Kwenda-Kwenda* by Vocab Dance Company and Session by London Diaspora Dance Theatre.

Many of the artists were ADAD Trailblazers for which this festival was an excellent opportunity to showcase their research and choreography. Imani Jendai and Tolo Ko Tolo’s work focused on the more serious sides of identity but with very different genres. Jendai’s Tap Lyrical took the audience on a journey of her growing up and learning to dance, where as Tolo utilised Zimbabwean movement and spiritual drumming to conjure up ideas of inherent wisdom.

Kwenda-Kwenda by Vocab Dance Company managed to show childhood innocence verging on adulthood. The costume, lighting and interaction between the female dancers was abstract yet true to any gang of London girls. The exploration of wishing to step away from ones roots yet worried about the effects was well portrayed by a mixture of African derived movements.

Unfortunately Opoku-Addaie’s *Mis-Thread* was very disappointing. Having recently premiered at the Place Mis-Thread seemed out of place amongst a programme of progressive and exciting choreography. The use of sign language, pedestrian movement and props were insular, benefiting the dancers only.

Luckily Session and *Another day in between the lines* lifted the performance. London Diaspora Dance Theatre reflected on the social experience of clubbing and it’s similarities to African ritual ceremony. DJ Keith Lawrence kept the energy high as traditional and club movements were woven into a high impact performance. The finale piece by Avant-Garde Dance Company was a hybrid of abstract hip hop and contemporary. The small amount of spoken word gave us insight into the performers but on the whole their movement could be left to do the talking.

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