Review: Transitions Dance Company - Triple Bill - Laban Theatre

Performance: 30 May - 02 June
Reviewed by Rachel Nouchi - Tuesday 6 June 2017

Kintsugi - James Keates

Reviewed 31 May 2017

Tonight, Transitions Dance Company, featuring twelve ferociously talented dancers ready to launch their careers on the dance circuit, attacked performance with admirable raw passion and fervour in a night that offered a mixed choreographic triple bill ranging from the captivating to oddly surprising.

The evening opened with a simple, but effective piece based on highly original material from choreographer, Charles Linehan, whereby he employed film footage from drones using the dancers as subjects to create choreography. It was ‘the aerial perspective of this drone footage that influenced the choreographic arrangement in Nothing but Time,’ tonight’s piece, explains Linehan.

While this is a short sequence at 13 minutes, its playful construction employs the power of light and shadows on movement and asks how the moving body responds to this onstage thus building compelling choreography. The dancers responded readily to the challenges set within Linehan’s choreography and keenly observed the relationships between eachother in space and how configurations of such patterns-influenced by the Ariel footage-can be navigated and negotiated between each other.

Kintsugi, choreographed by Oded Ronen came next and was by far the standout performance of the night. The collaboration of a haunting musical score by Ronen Kozokaro featuring Maurice Ravel’s Kaddish, the Jewish mourning prayer, worked in synergy with a thought provoking and elegiac choreography carried out with unflagging energy and power of performers.

Are we watching an MRI scan of a heart pumping only to be attacked by rogue cells appearing to disrupt an even rhythm of the heartbeat or perhaps factory workers as part of the machine? Questions are open to the audience to interpret and choreographic prompts are both stimulating and deeply moving.

While the piece is intense and carries passages of beautiful slow and sustained movement as well as more chaotic moments, it’s also comic. At one point the cast spit out golden sawdust and the audience has no idea why or where it came from, but it feels like an undisclosed spiritual reference. The notes refer to the Japanese art of Kintsugi, the title of the piece.

The framework of the choreography is built around the use of breath in varying degrees of tempos, weights and intensity. This, in turn, changes weight and movement intentions of the performer. Here, self-conscious breathing from lightweight to heavily laden are focused on gathering and scattering as a troupe. In certain phrases, the dancers come together, breathing communally only to be torn apart.

Finally, the last piece of the evening, &, created by Cristian Durant is intriguing to say the least. Set to an arrhythmic electronic score by composer Tom Monterio, the choreographer ‘invites dancers to (re)visit and plunder their physical and conceptual memory bank,’ and ‘the audience is clearly implicated in the unfolding of this work, playing its part and defining the action.’

While the beginning works beautifully with dancers dressed in a rare assortment of clothes from vintage colourful jumpers to 70’s party outfits snaking around the stage in suspended movement as if in slow motion or underwater, the action moves into uncomfortable territory.

Once the dancers start to leave the stage and filter into the audience space, attempts to connect to the action become limited.

As dancers descend into fractured, jerky moves, crawling and writhing over the seats with wide-eyed menacing stares and snarls, I had to banish film clips from the comic thriller, Shaun of the Dead, from mind.

One performer had clearly been instructed to leave her mouth open in some strange grimace. Through no fault of the excellent young performers, none of this felt disquieting ‘bizarre’ or connecting – just a little empty.

It’s worth commending the strength and fortitude of the dancers who managed to stay within the zone. However, this only deterred from the desired effect. Trying to interact with the performers proved impossible, despite the brief, as they were totally committed to respective inner worlds.

Rather, as the dancers sidled up to the audience, sitting next to them and pawing the velvet seats – things quickly spiraled into a Thriller style version of contemporary dance.

Surely there are better ways to dissolve the space between performer and audience – if this was the intention – than literally crawling all over them.

Overall, a lively night with hugely commendable zest and energy coming from the tireless performers who made the most of every second onstage and readily took on and embraced some challenging passages of choreography wholeheartedly.

Rachel Nouchi is a movement researcher/practitioner based at Central School of Speech and Drama and contributes as an arts reviewer for UK based performances. You can find her on Twitter @NouchiR

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