Review: Cloud Dance Festival: Firefly at Pleasance Theatre

Performance: 22 - 24 July 2011
Reviewed by Lise Smith - Wednesday 27 July 2011

James Cousins 'Taste Water Again'
Photo: Mikah Smillie

Cloud Dance Festival, the thrice yearly celebration of all things contemporary, is back after a one-year hiatus. This July’s lineup includes some stellar names over three nights – notably Tommy Franzen performing Royal Ballet soloist Kristen McNally’s *Don’t Hate the Player, Hate the Game*; Hofesh Shechter company dancer James Finnemore and *Shoes* choreographer Mark Smith with his group Deaf Men Dancing. Returning alongside these dance luminaries are emerging Cloud Dance favourites Sol Dance, Diciembre Dance Group and Slanjayvah Danza.

For me, Saturday evening’s most consistent work was James Cousins’ *Taste Water Again*. First shown at Resolution! earlier this year, where it drew praise for its intelligent composition and dynamic contrasts, the piece has matured well after a short rest. Performed by six rain-soaked dancers to a hazily Arabic score, Taste Water Again examines the fluid and changing connections between people and features the phenomenal Katie Lusby as its focal point. Wracked with anguished contractions and separated frmo the rest of the group Lusby appears at the start of the piece to have suffered some unknown trauma; later sections find her taking solace in the arms of a partner and comfort in ensemble motion. The material is well-chosen and structured, and all six dancers are technically strong and well-rehearsed.
I also enjoyed *Lunar-tic*, Slanjayvah Danza’s new solo for founder-choreographer Jenni Wren. Dressed in a sleek red nightgown, Wren prowls around a tight circle of spotlight, etching spirals with long, lithe limbs. The circle motif, suggesting natural cycles and the shape of the moon, is simple but effective and Wren is a watchable performer.

Placing up-and-coming choreographers alongside more established companies ensures a healthily eclectic programme (if not always the most consistent performance quality). Cloud Dance Festival returns to London in November with Grace (dates and venue tbc). Watch this space…

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