Review: Flash Mob - Peacock Theatre
Performance reviewed: 19 October
The whole catalogue of human emotion can be unleashed by dance but there is only one reason for seeing Flash Mob and that’s to have FUN! The idea is simple: take a handful of dance acts – across a range of genres – that have been successful on reality dance shows and give them one big theatrical showcase for their joint and several talents. With a ready-made audience of TV fans ready to splash their cash on some live gigs it can’t fail to take hold. The Strictly Come Dancing + Burn The Floor + River Dance franchises and their theatrical spin-offs have multiplied to saturation levels in recent years and so this expansion of the market place to cover the broader range of urban, contemporary and commercial dance forms is an idea that is perhaps a year or two overdue.
I caught an earlier iteration of this Flash Mob concept in Edinburgh, last August: performed on a smaller stage almost on top of the audience and with the considerable advantage of being held together by the remarkable talents of Tommy Fránzen. The big questions here were to see if the loss of intimacy in this transfer to a much larger London theatre and the loss of Fránzen as the heart and soul of the event would be challenges that could be met by the World Dance Management production team. And, so long as its fun that you’re after, the answer has to be in the affirmative.
The biggest difference comes not with the dancers but in much higher production values and, in particular, a full-on lighting design (by Ben Cracknell) that facilitates the pulsating pace of this show. It also seems a lot less like a loose collection of individual cameos than the Edinburgh fare with significantly more interaction between the five dance acts. The piece where the three main guys attempt to outdo and learn from each other’s styles – one of the successes from Edinburgh – is given a facelift and extended into a separate women’s version (choreographed by Fránzen himself).
The show’s central role is taken by Charlie Bruce – the winner of the first season of UK’s So You Think You Can Dance? – and she proves to be an effective gelling agent even if her work is sometimes restricted to a clichéd interpretation of what we might expect her to be: tiny shorts, a flailing mop of crinkle-cut red hair and super long legs, often kicked up alongside the hair in a “five-past-midnight” pose . There is no doubting her charismatic sex appeal: as Arlene Phillips might say, “she certainly knows how to work it”!
Tom Brosnan and Erin Trevena – who follow the Brangelina style of couple naming, performing as Brosena – gave us the ebullient harmony in whirlwind footwork that we must expect from a professional Irish Dance duo and my only complaint is that we saw too little of them. They have a remarkable strength and presence. Which is also true of the contemporary dance duet, Alleviate – runners up in Sky 1’s Got to Dance, last year. Renako McDonald grows stronger as a virtuoso dancer each time I see him and the power in some of his lifts and jumps was impressive. Several of their lifts were reminiscent of those in the great modern ballet duets of Kenneth MacMillan. However, dancing the same or similar emotional duets with the same partner (Nicolette Whitley) must soon become limiting for dancers of this much potential. The Latin duo of R. Elle Niane and Edwar Ramos was another key ingredient of the diversity in this programme and she smouldered through the work with an attitude of brooding, sultry intensity.
My only disappointments were that a few small pieces – especially in the first act – seemed bitty and inconsequential and more time needs to be spent on linking sections together; and that the Street Crew from Gilbert, Arizona – The Electrolytes – were not as impressive as I would have expected for an ensemble that came as winners of MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew. Setting aside the surprise at learning that the best urban dance team in the USA comes from Gilbert, Arizona, I found that their main routines seemed to lack the razor-sharp tightness we now expect in the disciplined timing of the very best urban dance crews. To borrow the hip language of the Got to Dance judges it was just not quite “on point”. However, all the individual skills for a top class ensemble seemed evident, spread around the eight guys, and I guess that getting the recipe right for the big numbers is just something that didn’t quite gel on this particular night.
The show is not one that requires much effort to understand, so it’s not likely to appeal to anyone who likes to be cerebrally challenged by dance. I suggest that wandering into this when you are really looking for Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker (or similar) is probably a big mistake. But here is a good mix of talented, enthusiastic dancers who have sufficient “X- Factor” to have encouraged thousands of people to pick up the ‘phone and vote and, in a sense, this is just one giant reprise of a “So You Think You Gotta Dance Like Michael Jackson” kinda-show!
It’s unpretentious, unprepossessing, wholesome Saturday night entertainment. All it missed was a panel of judges reeling out the superlatives between the numbers. As Dexys Midnight Runners once nearly said: “Come on Arlene” !
Continues at the Peacock Theatre until 4 November
Graham Watts writes for many publications including DanceTabs and Dancing Times. He is Chair of the Critics’ Circle Dance Section.
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