Review: Arch 8 Dancers - Tetris - part of Dance Umbrella 2016

Performance: 8 - 22 October 2016
Reviewed by Katherine Colombus - Wednesday 12 October 2016

Arch 8 Dancers - 'Tetris' Dance Umbrella 2016. Photo: Anna Van Kooij

Performance reviewed: 8 October 2016

Using Tetris as the starting point for a piece of contemporary dance seems like a simple idea. A series of blocks falling, reacting to space and locking into interconnecting shapes, stacks and patterns makes for a clear concept. Of course some of the kids in the audience have as much knowledge of the Gameboy classic as they do the ‘Save’ icon on a PC. But it doesn’t really matter in terms of engagement as Erik Kaiel’s piece becomes way more than static objects joining together.

The dancers (Kim Fischer, Mayke Van Kruchten, Joseph Simon, Paulien Truijen) are dressed in primary colours, red, orange, green and blue, like the Tetris shapes. They perform some daring acrobatic feats – jumping onto one another, piling onto each other’s shoulders or sitting three-a-piece on one’s lap in a stack formation. But personal politics are at play here. One of the dancers is isolated and ostracised, pushed out of the group, and has to find their own way – either solo, or worming their way back into the mass, shuffling underneath an existing foundation, jumping on top, or splitting off from the main altogether.

The energy changes as a trio is formed, and one dancer breaks off to tackle a Rubik’s cube. The toy becomes a catalyst for action and as it turns it corresponds with the dancer’s movements. The fun spills over into the audience as children are handed Rubik’s cubes to control their movements – fast turns, slow twists or jerky moves. The participation changes the pace, hilarity ensues, and before long the entire audience is on their feet and heading for the stage, crawling, moving in lines, forming arches and pathways, led by the dancers.

It’s a feel-good fully inclusive ending to a work of inventive artistry, looking at how to fit together or strike out alone, using courage, creativity and acceptance to do so.

Continues as part of Dance Umbrella 2016 at various venues until Saturday 22 October, including The Broadway Barking, Watermans Brentford, The Albany Deptford and Unicorn Theatre, central London

Katherine Colombus is an award-winning arts journalist specialising in dance and physical theatre.

Photos: Anna Van Kooij

Katie Colombus is a columnist, critic and editor. Twitter @Katiecolombus

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