Review: Cloud Dance Festival: Open Your Eyes at Jackson's Lane Theatre

Performance: July 2009
Reviewed by Cloud Dance Festival - Tuesday 4 August 2009

Performance: 17 July 2009

A midsummer deluge puts no dampener on the opening of Cloud Dance Festival. Jacksons Lane hosts the emerging festival, celebrating contemporary dance in all its variety. From street styles to physical theatre, new, emerging and established companies are given the opportunity to showcase their current work. A bold exploration into the power shifts of relationships.

Intrinsic Dance expressively chose contrasting dance styles to convey their theme in Is This Your Journey…; utilising the varying tones, effects and atmosphere different genres offer. Dynamic street styles evoked a sense of dominance set starkly against softer fluid movements suggesting innocence. A probing physical inquiry into, and assessment of, control versus subservience.

Fragmented Performance Company presented a compelling venture in their merging of dance and visual image in (re) Birth of Venus. Each performer physically responded and interpreted the image creating the piece. It was a delight to spot movements which echoed one another, reverting to the original image and unifying the dancers in their interpretation. With the audience unable to see the original Birth of Venus image, the catalyst for the piece, they are unable to fully appreciate the dancers’ interpretations. However striking images are left to linger on your mind; a final lift creates a powerful asymmetric silhouette.

A creative merge of multi-media, voice over and dance make for a wholesome exploration of our notion of Romance in The ‘Why Not’ Collective’s On Romance. Silent video projections provided a traditional romantic context, whilst the inclusion of live vocals of the film dialogue gave a contemporary discourse with the old-fashioned perspective. The ‘Why Not’ Collective effectively utilised differing styles to explore their theme. A lovely moment was centred on the group all performing the same simple foot work, yet through subtle detailing; a cocked head, or a leading shoulder, each dancer engaged with the group individually. This created different situations and relationships within the group but all based on the same steps. An admirable physical discovery of the highs and lows of romance.

Piece By Piece’s Beddiquette is a playful adventure into the journey of sleep. Opening with the skilled portrayal of the waking of a ‘not a morning person’, Steven Murphy’s movement captures that precious state between sleep and slumber. Completing the sequence on the floor, the mix of isolated body movement blended with elegant extension, suggests the disgruntled emergence from sleep. Creative use of props; a duvet, and comical detailing combine to achieve an encompassing insight into the world of sleep.

An ambitious theme, asylum seeking, successfully explored through dance theatre. Using interviews and real life accounts for inspiration, Vex Dance Theatre delves into the experience life in Britain as a refugee in Bluebird. Excitement, fear, hope and resentment are carefully choreographed to portray the vast array of emotions that immigrants battle through. An imaginative use of props; suitcase, tea cups, hoodies, provided the piece with a journey and a lovely sense of detail. The company utilised the avenues of physical theatre giving the piece moments of character, connecting with the accounts and steering clear of the dangers of stereotyping. One powerful moment involved dancers hurling themselves desperately at another, being caught and supported for a fraction of time, then suddenly dropped and discarded; a thought provoking physical interpretation of life as an asylum seeker in this country. A brave and powerful piece. A mature, confident and bold choreography.

Nexus Dance deserve recognition for their powerful choreography in Soul Notes; making the most of each dancer and their style. Individuality is celebrated, exhibiting the talents of each member of the company. As each dancer performs, the remaining company remain in the far off corner, ever present but detached. They each engage with the narrative created, physically reflecting and commenting when it becomes their turn to respond. It is most effective that each dancer projects a real ownership over ‘Soul Notes’, determining that an ensemble creative approach to theme, style, and choreography is where Nexus Dance excels. Committed and controlled execution matched with investigative and dynamic choreography; ensure Nexus Dance is a company to watch out for. Mesmerising conceptual choreography.

In Henry Fry and Riccardo Buscarini’s Place of Non-Belonging, three varying lengths of rope dissect the stage horizontally, attached at one end to the wall and at the other are looped around a dancer. The piece opens with such beautiful inertia and subtlety that initially the mind cannot register the motion. It is only after several long seconds that the audience realise the delicate progression of the movement; Fry and Buscarini have achieved an illusion. The piece centres around the manipulation of the rope as the dancers explore the possibilities the rope can offer. Suspension at gravity defying angles gave a quality of serene freedom to the piece. The progression of pace as well as space displayed the advanced control of each dancer and through effective use of complicité, together the performers organically developed the piece. Henry Fry and Ricardo Buscarini prove their innovative concept captivating although there is still room for experimentation and exploration of the possibilities the rope contraptions can achieve. Complexity at its most enthralling.

In Sudden Change of Event, Dam Van Huynh has created a piece so intricate that the audience can do nothing but be riveted. Opening with a Brechtian style, the dancers construct their very own set, laying tape down to create their performance space. The jump to the stylised use of dance immediately intensifies the dancers’ talent. The whole piece is reactionary, creating a dance conversation as each dancer responds to and engages with another. The audience remain absorbed, in silence, as they attempt and fail to predict the direction the piece takes. Each movement, each moment, gives birth to the next whether the sequence be contained to one dancer, one body part even, or shared between the company. A large rectangular frame is also innovatively manipulated; once angled dangerously on the verge of toppling over but controlled by the foot of one performer.

Cloud Dance Festival proves to be a lively and inspiring festival for the performer as well as the audience. The programming allows younger companies to share the stage with performances of different genres, as well as from more experienced and successful dancers. That the quality of the work is varied is not a negative for the festival, rather a reason the evening works so well. Cloud Dance Festival celebrates contemporary dance, allowing those who share the passion the chance to mix, influence and learn from another. Blooming ticket sales confirm the need for an event of this kind on the London Dance circuit. Coupled with the fact that Cloud Dance Festival remains an unfunded organisation, the festival, its organisers and its performers deserve admiration as the event grows each year. Look out in December for the next offering from Cloud Dance Festival.

Reviewed by Catherine Hooper

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