Review: Cloud Dance Festival: Restless at Jackson's Lane Theatre

Performance: 24 April 2009
Reviewed by Marie Walton - Friday 1 May 2009

Cloud Dance Festival began its third year with ‘Restless’, a diverse collection promising a stimulating evening’s entertainment. Friday night’s program opened with the choreography of Denise Horsley.

‘Still’ had poetry at its heart creating a sympathetic sadness for the lone woman bathed in a shaft of light. Random pauses in gentle cradling postures establish a maternal sentiment with spiralling movements punctuating the steady flow. It is a private journey back and forth along a lit pathway and leaves a sense of emptiness and lingering sorrow.

Subsequently, Transience Dance Company removed all physical boundaries from the start. ‘Transience’ commenced with a lit auditorium; bare bricked back wall and two slowly undulating performers. The piece progressed with random repetitive entrance and exits and hunched postured dancers presenting a strange insanity. An extreme verbal onslaught was unleashed by the entrance of a further performer babbling angrily through the auditorium, and at points, directly at audience members. With moments of brief synchronicity adding to the eccentricity, the highly expressive performers were both mesmerizing and disturbing, their cackling laughter as they slowly walked off was entertainingly unsettling.

‘Push’, choreographed by Melody Squire, provided a precise if somewhat repetitive contrast. The dancers of Sol Dans executed solos, duets and collective choreography with accuracy and a pleasurable attention to detail. The movements created an uninterrupted stream of merging patterns with only momentary attempts at dynamic variation. A perfect delivery by a strong group of dancers.

The concept behind ktdt’s (Katie Thies Dance Theatre’s) performance of ‘I found a bag of nuts’ was an attractive device. The structure of the piece, in its entirety, being influenced by the dancers and the random cues and instructions they are given before and throughout. The casual fragments of text whilst performers created squares with tape and played with props, added to the informal and amusing performance. On the whole it was a pleasant insight into a choreographic tool that left the audience to speculate how it would differ if watched for a second time.

The most encapsulating performance of the evening came from Cloud Dance. ‘Come out to show them’ bombarded and trapped the onlooker inside a positively disturbing moment in time. Huge abstract projections supported the visual attack as the six dancers, with bandaged heads and gathered white dresses, poured erratically through the space. The unmistakable image of these women simultaneously advancing towards the audience, with the accompaniment of flashing images and increasingly enveloping noise, created a gripping yet uncomfortable experience. Beautifully executed, the dancers, images and piercing sounds harass the senses into an escalating departure from reality.

‘Running Through You’ is a lighthearted and intimate solo from Eade and Perkins Presents…. and one of the highlights of the evening. A refreshing insight into a very personal explanation combining dance and text to achieve an exchange of unexpected information. Having completed a series of movements the dancer returns to the start of the sequence, only this time adding explanations to each part, immediately providing an easy clarity and relation to various text and actions. Quite often humorous and endearing, the varieties of mediums, including a delightful ‘freestyle’ to ‘Raspberry Beret’, merge amazingly well. An uplifting and pleasingly different approach to physical expression resulting in a very likeable performance.

The second highlight of the evening came from Off The Map with a beautiful interpretation of segregation and the desire for acceptance. ‘I’ve been waiting’ is an excellent portrayal of one man’s struggle through awkward and almost clumsy phrases whilst two flawlessly synchronized women complete various extracts of choreography. Without any acknowledgement from the other dancers he continues his self-conscious journey pausing intermittently to watch the others manoeuver seamlessly past. The gentle sadness of the situation is complimented by the acoustic music of Fink, which only adds to the overall likeability of both the performers and the piece itself. Eventually the trio joins in unison but the relief is only temporary and the man is deserted at the finish, crestfallen as he watches the two women leave.

The final piece ‘Be Mine’, by Drew McOnie Dance Theatre, promises a theatrical escape back to the times when women unmistakably oozed femininity and men were nothing but perfect gentlemen. With this in mind it delivers all of the above and more. With a backdrop of melodious crooning from Judy Garland, the fun-filled choreography delivers atmosphere by the bucket-loads and is performed with such lively enthusiasm by all the dancers it is impossible not to be mesmerized. A passionate display of ‘show tune’ glamour, this is entertainment at its super sweetest and not for the faint-hearted. As the last piece of the evening, it places a definite full stop on a distinct and assorted program.

Cloud Dance Festival’s line-up boasts an excellent array of pieces including some of the most promising developing talent in both performance and choreography.

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