Review: Various in Watch this Space at National Theatre

Performance: 21st - 25th August 2008
Reviewed by Libby Costello - Wednesday 27 August 2008

The Olympics has landed – gold goes to dance!

On the eve of their completion in Beijing, the National Theatres ‘Watch this Space’ event opened its floor for an Olympic dance weekend, celebrating dance styles from across the globe. With Hip Hop, Salsa and Tango demonstrations set to draw the crowd, Watch this Space erupted into displays of Maori, Japanese and African dance.

Friday evening brought a mixed crowd of commuters, tourists and dance enthusiasts together for a lesson in Lindy Hop followed by music from Liam Grundy’s Swing band. The packed floor stumbled their way through six steps, triple steps and turns – an ambitious lesson plan to deliver in 15 minutes! Most persevered and put their new found skills to the test as the intergenerational dancers combined Lindy happily with Hip Hop, Ceroc and Salsa to while away a warm summers’ eve on the Southbank.

Saturday brought the sunshine with the exoticism of Salsa eluding from every pore of the band and dancers. Dressed in white the hip wiggling, shoulder shimming couple led an eager crowd through the Salsa basic, adding detail through visual cues and minimal instruction – giving the participants a sense of ease. The band, La Cuba Ritmo, has won much acclaim within the UK and certainly knew how to get a crowd moving and transmit the Cuban vibe.

The audience remained transfixed by the dancers, not only due to the girls’ minimal tasselled attire, but the energy and spontaneity. Although performing structured routines the dancers stayed true to the dance style by incorporating improvisation. Not afraid to experiment for applause both dancers incorporated Hip Hop with a Michael Jackson flavour, Rumba and acrobatics.

Motion House rooted the audience firmly in a cosmopolitan bar, in any Western city. Two female dancers, probably out on the pull, masquerading as a girl night out, flirted for the attention of the male in an age of story of the love triangle – reflected in the shape of the bar.

The movement took the dancers over and under their makeshift bar, bar stools and surrounding area, with exaggerated pedestrian movement blended with physical theatre and contemporary dance. Chaser, true to the name saw the dancers’ demise due to the effects of alcohol. As one girl is favoured over the other, a frightening attention seeking suicide attempt is seen with the repetitive action of leaping off the bar. Although aspects of the work were a little cliché the audience remained mesmerised throughout – proving that good site specific contemporary dance is appreciated.

A quick change transported the Southbank 11682 miles to New Zealand with UK based Maori company Manaia – bringing a traditional welcome with an educational overview. The company worked performed haka’s, danced with poi accompanied by Karanga (the call of the woman). With small bursts of audience interaction the traditions were viewed and passed on in a flurry of hand gestures, calls and footwork.

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