Review: Magpie Dance Company at Albany, Deptford

Performance: 23 Jun 09
Reviewed by Eileen Strong - Wednesday 24 June 2009

Magpie Dance Company flew their Bromley nest this week for their first performance at Deptford’s Albany theatre.

This was also my first encounter with the inclusive dance company and their union of youths and adults, with and without learning disabilities, resulted in six refreshing and uplifting performances.

Kicking the night off was Acquaintance, a touching duet choreographed by Kate Rosie, as part of Magpie’s choreographer mentoring scheme. As a sweeping score lead into a playful Scottish jig, a couple of props were thrown in to up the element of fun. Peter Taylor deftly pivoted around his upturned umbrella, while Melissa Spiccia nimbly leapt through a flurry of ribbons. From unison movements they built to partner work – pushing, pulling and supported each other – like the best of friends.

Following a saxophonist onto the stage, the youth group got plenty of chance to show off their dynamic moves in Up-Side-Down. The performance lived up to its name, with arm movements going in all directions – from snake-like to swimming, from angular to aeroplanes. Set to accented jazz, this piece gave everyone a taste of the young troupe’s individual styles, whilst pair work provided the less confident members of the cast with a chance to shine.

Going Live featured a brightly-clad bunch of adults, some veterans to Magpie, but all with different strengths – be it expressive floor work or pose striking. Making good use of the width of the stage, they displayed their brand of lively, contemporary jazz and ensured the first half’s ending was as upbeat as the band’s funky music.

Developed out of youth group technique classes, Holding Pattern was the night’s most physically challenging work. As eight dancers explored a contemporary-influenced vocabulary of lunging, leaning, arm wraps and swings, to a rhythmic drum solo, there was impressive control and musical-awareness all round.

Passion had something of a dramatic atmosphere. Whether it was the trio of gondoliers, or the bursts of organ music, it’s no surprise that choreographer Hugh Willoughby was influenced by Phantom of the Opera. Another of Magpie’s mentored choreographers, his work explored movement, through spiralling and meandering walks, with mirrored arabesques and hand circles breaking up the journey.

The evening ended on a high with the aptly named Positive Expressions. A gang of young hoodies responded to a soundtrack of heartbeats, in this lively lesson in urban attitude. There was plenty of posturing and robotic dancing, while solo spots showcased some spirited break dancing, all served up with lots of bounce.

Magpie’s students provide an inspirational evening’s entertainment, dotted with bursts of spontaneous enthusiasm from performers and audience alike. I’ve seen other contemporary dance companies try much more earnestly to get across a sentiment and fail, but Magpie’s message of inclusivity and ability is gently conveyed with great success.

What’s On