Review: Clouds - Arcaladanza - Southbank

Performance: 26 - 30 July 2014
Reviewed by Jeffrey Gordon Baker - Wednesday 30 July 2014

Aracaladanza 'Clouds'

Clouds by Spanish dance company Arcaladanza, is a family dance show that is structured more like a revue, a series of charming theatrical illusions and comic scenes. The mundane world outside the theatre seemed to dissolve as a pile of miniature houses with the windows lit up were lifted up and carried away into the wings. The next scene may have had some technical difficulties, but eventually we saw what looked to be a gigantic soap bubble of thin plastic sheeting, swirling and contorting around a singular dancer, moving around the space like a globular storm cloud.

The piece was notable throughout for its use of simply and effectively presented magic tricks and clowning, employing low-tech theatrical devices to enchanting effect. Rolling tables and cast members dancing with their shadows, comical bobbing heads on springs above oversized overcoats and a dance in which everyone wore scuba diving flippers, and of course fluffy clouds with legs dancing around and turning into sheep; acts meant to garner giggles and gasps of delight from a young audience, which they did. The dance, and there was indeed plenty of dance, was Bob Fosse-inspired showy stuff, complete with bowler hats, jazz hands and face front presentation, that acted as filler to bracket the funny and whimsical bits.

The only criticism I would have is that my little boy and I have recently seen plenty of pieces that employ similarly attention grabbing visuals for kids, but in the service of themes relevant to children, or as a way to draw them into a story. As pure playful entertainment Clouds was a hit, as an edifying introduction to the possibilities of dance and physical theatre, perhaps not as much.

Jeffrey Gordon Baker is a transplanted New Yorker living in London; an artist and writer who has studied art, performance and aesthetics at New York University, Central St Martins and Birkbeck College.

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