Review: Leaving Limbo Landing - London Fields - Big Dance
The elements were meant to play a key role in Caroline Bowditch’s outdoor production, billed as being ‘performed in air, in water and on land,’ but at Saturday’s 3pm performance, the weather tried to steal the show altogether. Nevertheless, as dark clouds gathered overhead, a crowd began to form in a corner of London Fields to watch a spirited if somewhat loose mixture of ariel and expressive dance about the adventure of leaving home. This is a fitting theme for an event presented by East London Dance, one of the organisational hubs in London for the nationwide Big Dance celebrations. The audience was as diverse as East London itself, and it was touching to see them crowded around smiling with enthusiasm to watch a piece inspired by the stories of East End immigrants.
Dancers emerged from amongst the audience carrying suitcases and chatting to the audience about the voyages they were planning. Their individual journeys were indicated by the particular costumes they wore made of bubble wrap, burlap and what looked to be luggage name tags. They flitted, flailed and wandered about the playing area, a couple of them demonstrating skill in a section of ariel work, but mostly letting giggling games of hide and seek do the metaphorical work of the piece. A sequence in which water rained down on the performers from a perforated pipe hidden in the scaffolding was hardly necessary given the threatening rain.
Showers postponed the start of the piece, but it turned out that Bowditch’s work was well-served by the weather, as brollies and wind figured in a voiceover text and a lot of the movement consisted of characters seeming to be blown about by their voyages abroad. Near the end, a dramatic break in the clouds and a gusty breeze provided a cinematic effect as a silky cloak worn by one of the dancers shimmered in a sudden revelation of sunlight, billowing magically as she tore up her travel documents, scattering them like melancholy confetti. Helped along by Mother Nature, this was a lovely image for summing up the bittersweet feeling of both gaining and losing a homeland.
Leaving Limbo Landing is a work about setting out for parts unknown and the excited trepidation and uncertainty this can bring. But the curious looks and wide-eyed wonderment of the five female dancers often came across like confusion since the structure of the work seemed to be left almost entirely to their interpretation as they performed it. The work will have a few more outings this summer which should help refine some of the detail and allow its ambitious themes to emerge with clarity.
The real stars of the afternoon turned out to be the community of plucky punters who braved the storm to support the event. Cycling over, I admit I didn’t expect much of a turnout as I was already wiping raindrops out of my eyes, but a mixture of dedicated dance lovers and serendipitous passers by made up a sizeable gathering. A more substantial offering of Big Dance might have been nice to make the sogginess worth their while, but it’s encouraging to see that the audiences are there to celebrate dance Big-style this summer.www.bigdance2012.com
Leaving Limbo Landing was commissioned as part of Unlimited – a unique programme celebrating disability, arts, culture and sport as part of the London 2012 Festival, which challenged disabled artists across the country to make their most ambitious work to date.
Leaving Limbo Landing can also be seen in Scotland this summer, as part of Merchant City Festival in Glasgow (28/29 July) and at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe as part of the Made in Scotland Showcase (16-20 August).
Jeffrey Gordon Baker is a New Yorker in London studying for a PhD in Aesthetic Theory at Birkbeck College, University of London.
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