Review: Jamaal Burkmar - New Adventures Choreographer Award Showcase - Platform Theatre

Performance: 21 - 24 September 2016
Reviewed by Katie Colombus - Friday 23 September 2016

Jamaal Burkmar's '16 Bars'. Photo: Danilo Moroni

Performance reviewed: 22 September

The biennial New Adventures Choreographer Award, a fund originally set up by friends of Matthew Bourne marking his 50th birthday, to support and celebrate new dance makers, was this year awarded to Jamaal Burkmar. The industry showcase comprises a triple bill of young dancers, from youth companies to students and recent graduates. It is an exciting vision of a fledgling choreographer making new work for the dancers of the future.

Storm, performed by Shoreditch Youth Dance Company (SYD) opens with Jacob Lang wriggling and writhing like a bird stuck in tar at the front of the stage before a group tableau. He breaks free to move, fluidly and gracefully to a classical soundtrack that rolls through well known pieces by Puccini, Saint-Saens and Verdi. The soundscape is powerful, rousing, familiar, and endears us to his work. Long moves with deep, floor-skimming plies, rippling through fluid shoulders towards his tribe, who pose like a post-apocalyptic nuclear family. Dancers spring out from the pack, propelled as if by some invisible force that snaps at heels, sends arms flying or knees jerking, twitching and quick. Wearing burnt autumnal hues of green, wine red and brown, they join together moving like atoms, pinging and springing in unison, sliding and jumping in canon. Molly Danter is a standout star of the future, dancing with individuality and flair and likewise John Sawney moves with real panache and skill. With further training they will build up the stamina needed for a full body of work.

A slower piece, The Calm, performed by Batch Ensemble, was a fitting middle section of the evening, allowing the dancers to luxuriate in the movement and the audience to take a breather. It’s like watching an early ‘70s funk happening in New York City. Flared trousers are pulled up high as they strut and a roll to a deep bass beat. A quick step done slow shows the strength and power behind their relaxed, lolling vibe to music by D’angelo and Patrick Watson. Side arabesques and toppling off balance, reaching and yearning give way to lying on the floor, breathing heavily, exhausted from all the funky jazz. Solomon Berrio-Allen is sharp and precise, upright and linear; Kasichana Okene-Jameson, more of a soul diva, moving with passion and attack. There is a sense that there is more going on internally than meets the eye. It’s a more haphazard piece than the first – a more disparate series of solos that come together to work as group. One section rolls into the next with no discernible beginning, middle or end until a quiet tightrope, tip-toeing section, but Burkmar has done well to allow the dancers the freedom embrace their own choreography and shape their movement into a piece of rounded dance theatre. He clearly enjoys playing with the set up and the dynamics of solo and group; unison and travelling. Whatever the meaning is – even if it’s not overtly apparent – the dancers move with intent, imbibing the spirit of his work.

16 Bars is the last and longest piece of the evening, opening like an installation with pairs of trainers suspended on long bright red strings, gradually raised on bars, to hang like ligaments from the ceiling. The dancers move like puppets as the lost shoes rise, slowly like curtains to hang in clouds over the hunched, swaying dancers, their Pinocchio arms out wide and high. Burkmar shows again a real ear for music, a dramatic spoken word piece strings together a moving narrative that shapes the dance. It’s an intense journey, and the choreography fits into the triptych of set design, movement and sound, but at times is at risk of being overshadowed by Otis Jones’ soundtrack. Lyrics by Zane Burkmar and Matthew ‘Kama’ Robinson, like “my heart beats in haikus” will stick with you long after the show has finished. A signature style is beginning to form as the group work emerges, mesmerizing and graceful. There is a wild dynamic in parts, with low striding runs and circular unison, which gives way to internalized, melancholy movements, and a subdued section with dancers softly lit on a dark stage. The energy suddenly picks up and there’s more fluid, rolling elements, round and down and up – a whirling, cyclical wheel. Textbook elements of contact improvisation are impressive if recognizably stock – falling, supporting, lifting. All eyes are on French dancer Clementine Telesfort, who is excellent, picking bits out of the air, smiling or striking defiantly through the space. She moves with a grace and tenderness in one of the first, most memorable solos of the piece.

Burkmar shows real flair for creating a rounded piece of work that is packaged with intent and clarity but at the same time allows the choreography room to breathe and is respectful of the differences between his dancers, allowing them their own style of moving – whether quick and snappy, or fluid and low. As his style is refined and his structure honed, he will further develop his creative process, already so full of pace, poise and promise.

Continues at the Platform Theatre until Saturday 24 September
Details & booking

Photos: Danilo Moroni


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

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