Review: Body of Experience at The Place

Performance: 27/28 Nov & touring
Reviewed by Jessye Parke - Wednesday 29 November 2006

*Body of Experience* is a show not to be missed. Featuring professional performers over the age of 45 it celebrates the mature performerby showcasing an eclectic mix of dance styles and personalities. This group represents many more who could still be making a significant contribution to dance as performers – were it not for our current obsession with youth in dance.

Debbie Lee-Anthony has brought together six artists who perform solos choreographed by themselves in their own unique styles. The result is an evening of dance which spans genres from belly dancing, through traditional Caribbean dance to neo-classical ballet.

Including such a diverse range of styles and performers could potentially result in an incoherent programme. However, the show was very well structured and produced – although a little long. The range of genres provided the audience with a brief insight into not only the talents of the individual artists, but also the dance style they performed.

The design and lighting for this programme is excellent throughout , and for many of the pieces it has been devised by the performers/choreographers themselves. They seem to have an appreciation of how best to use these elements to complement their work – perhaps a collective benefit of years of professional experience.

A special mention for two of the performers. Company founder Debbie Lee-Anthony performs two pieces and in both showcases significant skill in her release-based contemporary dance style. She also exhibits a wonderful stage presence and dramatic ability through her choreography. In her own work *Holding The Moment* , Lee- Anthony holds the attention of an enraptured audience as she makes a “personal exploration of loss, change and new beginnings”.

The stand out performer of the evening is Raymond Chai. Formerly of National Ballet of Portugal, Chai demonstrates all the qualities of a dynamic showman in the prime of his career. In two technically challenging solos, he displays his clean ballet technique. With charisma and style he dances his way through his virtuosic pieces without breaking a sweat.

After each piece, Chai does not just bow and run off the stage. In keeping with his truly flamboyant style he gives an elaborate but modest bow then runs away and leaps into the wings.

Works by Chitra Sundaram, Nancy King, Jackie Guy and Jacqui Chan also feature in this programme which has been touring the UK since August this year. Although there are some variations in technical ability, these performers exhibit strength, athleticism and charisma, qualities which are often cited as lacking in the mature performer.

Many of them would not look out of place in mainstream dance companies. The quality of performance, use of facial expression and technical prowess of these dancers has the ability to rival that of those many years their junior. The dance industry ignores at its peril these wonderful performers!

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