Thursday, 29 December 2011

Dance Fragments

8/12/11 The Hat Factory, Luton

The triple bill began with Sarah Levinsky’s Plastic Island, which constructed a landscape of plastic carrier bags centre stage.  The piece consisted of four female solos, each entering the stage and interacting with the bags to create different relationships.  Each dancer displayed a sense of individuality within their movement, and the most impressive element to this performance was the realisation that all the dancers were improvising.  As the night’s pieces were all works in progress, Levinsky had decided not to set anything at this stage of her investigation.  Plastic Island delivered an intense, alienated atmosphere which transported the audience to another world – or foreign island as the title insinuates.  The sculpture of carrier bags added connotations of mass consumerism and environmental issues, and I predict the concluding product to be captivating.

Kolesk Dance’s Julia Cheng  followed the first piece with her solo, Hat & Ball.  Whilst Cheng has an undeniable original, interesting movement style and stage presence, the choreography completely lacked sophistication.  The title left nothing to the imagination – the piece centred around a hat and a ball for choreographic inspiration.  However, the solo received good feedback from the members of the audience from a non-dance background, who could relate to the non-narrative style and enjoyed the hybrid mix of dance styles that Cheng always delivers.

The Hat Factory saved the best till last as Helen Parlor ended the night with her new work Close/Distance.  This piece of dance theatre used interesting characters to give a voyeuristic insight into the minds of those people who live nearby and we pass regularly in the street – but don’t bother to interact with.  The performers delivered well executed lines to enhance the dancing narrative, and all gave incredibly believable performances.  It was hard to believe that this piece was also in the early stages of development, as the relationships between the dancers seemed so natural that one would presume they had worked together for years – when in fact in reality it was just ten days. Close/Distance was dynamic and thought provoking, and I am waiting with baited breath to watch the final production when it tours next year.  

Odissi Ensemble - Shades of Love

17/11/11 The Hat Factory, Luton

Having never experienced an Asian Dance performance, I was an eager audience member anticipating Odissi Ensemble’s debut showing of Shades of Love.  So were plenty of others, as the crowded theatre in Luton’s Hat Factory was buzzing with excitement.  As the dancers enter the theatre in darkness, the anticipation rises with the jingle of the bells around their feet.  This leads into the first of seven individual dances, in which each one tells a different story, and the bells induce a rhythm that always matches perfectly with the music.

The style itself is definitely separated from the stereotypical Indian dance that is now commercialised.  The intricate and unique isolations are delivered by the dancers with such precision, along with a great sense of musicality towards the choreography.  The dances also demand a high level of expression within the face, and at times the dancers are literally miming situations, to engage the audience in the story.  Some could find this a bit too literal, but I thought it was conveyed well and gave a context to the pieces that needed it.  Other sections did not have a set theme and relied mainly on the musical –bodily connection; yet even in these pieces strong relationships between the dancers were evident.  The classical choice of colourful costume, jewellery and make up added to the glamour and culture of Odissi and complemented the choreography beautifully.

As someone who generally leans towards contemporary dance, it was so refreshing to see this antithesis dance form, and I enjoyed it for its differences.  The current trend in dance theatre is to strip the dancers down – emotionally and physically – in regards to costume we often see neutral colours and a lot of bare skin, coupled with emotionless, serious faces.  In Shades of Love the dancers were often smiling, allowing their genuine happiness to shine through to the audience – and this was uplifting.  Odissi Ensemble are aiming to increase the profile of this niche Indian Dance style, and with audience members describing it as magical I think they are on they way to success.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011


3/11/11  Actors Church, London

In the beautiful setting of the Actors Church in Covent Garden, I seated myself second row from the front and anticipated the performance ahead – a platform of emerging dance artists, ready to excite me with their fresh and inspiring approach to choreography, just like those of the Judson Church in the 1960’s……or so I thought.

Exquisite Corpse Dance Theatre opened the show, with an ambitious piece that for me lacked identity, which made it hard for the audience to relate to the choreography.  With confusing motifs and far too many crotch shots, any cohesion that actually existed in Roma swiftly vanished.  It’s unfortunate because the dancers had undeniable skill, and I think their talent was overshadowed by the recurring dodgy angles coinciding with the tiniest pants ever – trust me, everyone was rooting for an eyeful rather than being impressed with their flexibility.  Choreographer Anthony Lo-Giudice should give his girls a little modesty so people can focus on their dancing.  The second piece from Diciembre Dance Group was the complete antithesis.  Dressed head to toe in outfits resembling a Victorian fairytale, to describe this piece as dated is an understatement.  Based on a strange theme of a Lewis Carroll poem, Lewis After Wonderland attempted to explore ‘Alice as a metaphor of childhood’ and ‘an idea that haunts him.’  But there was no haunting atmosphere in this pas de deux, just the impression of a ballet exam with posh frocks.  For me it was far too literal and behind the times to be involved in this contemporary dance platform.

Room performed by Beyond Repair Dance is the most original production so far.  The concise, minimal movements performed in exact unison created a feeling of suspense that appeared from nowhere.  Although the piece is simple and quite repetitive, I would rather describe it as unpretentious, and the intricacy of the choreography makes it interesting to watch.  After a few technical glitches, A.D. Dance Company present Fawn, inspired my Mozart’s requiem.  Four duets perform movement reminiscent of NDT and Lalala Human Steps, in which the female is central to the choreography, and the male just lifts her around in different positions like you would expect to see in a ballet.  As in the opening piece, the dancers were incredible but the choreography didn’t live up to them.  It was predictable, didn’t have any real dynamic changes and felt rather long.

The only solo of the night, Patriot finally blew away the convention that seemed to surround this platform.  Choreographed by James Finnemore, it was original, modest, and the movement actually felt real and purposeful as opposed to being about virtuosity.  Erik Lobelius completely invested in his performance, and this is what made it mesmerising.  Now, I thought, it feels like the Judson Chruch.  Stewart Kennedy Dance Company closed the evening with No Tomorrow, which was also in a league of its own.  With more of a release/physical theatre style, it successfully produced a sinister feel.  There felt like a lack of contact work in this piece – but maybe this is compared to the other pieces’ excess partner work?  There was also a sense of the choreographer becoming the centre of attention, but overall it was still one of my favourites.  Maybe that was a collective mistake of this platform – in many of the pieces the choreographer performed in their own dance.  This could have allowed for misjudgement and a lack of viewing the performance with an outside eye, which all choreography needs in the rehearsal stage.  The night definitely had potential – hopefully next year choreographers will embrace this and push it further.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

'One Day' - Book vs Film!

Novel and screenplay written by David Nicholls.

The book should come with a warning: “Do Not Read In Public.”  The film is fine to watch in company– you’re sat in a big dark room, surrounded by people having the same emotional reactions as you. (Which weren’t as intense as when I was reading the same story.)  Laughing and crying into a book on a busy commute to London is not a good look.  I can’t remember the last time I’ve been so moved by a book – maybe the reason is personal, as this story has so many parallels to my own life at the moment.  The plot begins with the main characters graduating – who then each take it in turn to give accounts of their life on one specific day, July 15th, each year.  I could relate to the characters Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew straight away; having just graduated myself, Nicholls captures perfectly the anxiety of life after university and the important decisions that must be made.  Like Emma, I decided to move from my Northern roots and base myself near London, craving to be immersed in the artistic, creative heart of Britain – yet she gets stuck in a dead end waitressing job (uncannily so have I).

Through the film and the novel, Nicholls creates such a wonderfully strong connection to the characters that you get to know them inside out.  We watch them transform through their twenties, thirties and forties, and how life suddenly unravels so quickly.  Having been constantly disappointed by film adaptations, I decided to watch the screen version before reading the book – which I definitely preferred.  When you’ve read a book, watching the film is often disappointing as it misses certain events out or even invents subplots to increase dramatic effect.  Yet reading a book when you already have faces in mind and know what’s about to happen is a pleasure, because there are so many surprising, charming added extras.  David Nicholls has created characters so believable and relevant to today’s society and culture, that I actually feel I know them personally.  Branded as a romance, this is no Romeo and Juliet – it is original, bold, a harsh reality of love and life.  An absolute must-read, it can definitely be described as a contemporary classic.

So which did I prefer, the book or the film? The book of course - the original, it’s always the book.  And they definitely shouldn’t have cast an American to attempt a Northern accent.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Jade goes to Edinburgh!!!

Yes, I finally made it though the ridiculously long train journey and staying in a hostel on my own – but it was all worth it! I can’t say this is my ‘Pick of the Fringe’; I was only there for 2 days, so I just saw as much as possible and reviewed everything.  Apart from that late comedy night Spank, which kind of speaks for itself – classic, dirty fun...

2Faced Dance Company – In the Dust
Zoo Southside 25/8/11

“2Faced is set to transport contemporary dance out of the “marmite” zone of arts festivals.”

This all male dance company is not your average contemporary/break dance blend.  The versatile dancers, faultless at breaking, have created their own fuse with their professional training backgrounds in ballet and contemporary - giving them an impressive edge.  The choreography is quirky and unpredictable, fierce and sexy – yet danced almost elegantly, as the inhuman, lightweight way they glide across the floor is unmatched by any other dancers I’ve seen.

‘In The Dust’ is the perfect triple bill, consisting of an explosive opener, a humorous piece and an intense closing performance inspired by a serious subject; the Haiti earthquake.  2Faced Dance Company is innovative and unique, and judging by their sell-out, five star reviews from Edinburgh they are set for great, deserving success.

Two Thirds Sky – Hold
Spotlites @ The Merchants' Hall 24/8/11

“A piece infused with so much narrative, yet just as much ambiguity that it keeps you enchanted.”

I’m trying my best not to be biased with this one, as I know absolutely everyone involved in the company.  Yet I think I speak for most audience members when I say that this piece really does grip you from start to finish.  The mood changes abruptly, as the dancers’ relationship is constantly changing, as they overcome obstacles together and deal with various random props and costume changes. 

One review states “If Florence and the Machine made dances, this is what it would look like.”  I can only agree, as the dancers tell a beautiful story, but it is up to the audience to decide what is actually happening onstage – this dance piece is so open to interpretation that it keeps you engaged and leaves you feeling charmed.

Tom Dale Company – I Infinite
DanceBase 25/8/11

“An intriguing, mesmerising journey through digital technologies.”

This performance was distinctive right from the offset, as I was asked to remove my shoes and wear a Harry Potter-esque cloak.  I Infinite is no ordinary contemporary dance performance – it is an interactive installation piece, which attempts to break the conventional laws of audience /performer boundaries.  Wandering freely around a large, all-white space, the audience is invited to watch the solo female performer from all perspectives, as she explores the digital world around her.  The set and digital enhancement was interesting, yet at times this description did not match the movement.  However, I am yet to see a dance performance incorporating technology that has found the perfect balance, and overall it was successfully innovative and mysterious.

Ranvenrock Theatre Company – Jamie Blake
Zoo Roxy 25/8/11

“A powerfully moving piece of interdisciplinary theatre from a surprisingly young cast.”

Jamie Blake’s unique fusion of theatre, beatboxing musical accompaniment and dance put this show in a league of its own.  The raw emotion emitted throughout the story, musically narrated by rising talents Rhys Lewis and Grace Savage, ignited something special.  I had goosebumps for almost the entirety of the performance – until, unfortunately, the chorus started dancing.  The main problem was the cheesy choreography, which was totally unneeded in otherwise an extremely sophisticated theatrical production. 

Unnecessary dancing aside, Jamie Blake gripped me from the start and took me on an “emotional, beatboxing rollercoaster,” as it was described by one of the cast.  With a script that conquers humour and sadness together, from the unbelievably talented Ashley Scott-Layton, and impressive performances from leads Rupert Lazarus and Ekow Quartey, Ravenrock are going to go far.  I have a feeling this is just the beginning.

Iona Dudley-Ward – Me, Myself and Iona
The Rabbie Burns Cafe Bar 24/8/11.  Part of PBH's Free Fringe.

This up and coming comedic talent presents a one woman character sketch show, with reminisces of Catherine Tate.  As a dancer, who had just returned from V Festival, I found the following characters highly amusing: an egocentric dance instructor and a silly festival hippy, as they highlighted some funny personal truths!  I wouldn’t highly recommend her to anyone just yet, (possibly in a few years) but I definitely can’t complain, as it was a free chuckle!

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Beach Break Live!

I think I’m going to find it hard to review this event objectively for many reasons.  Seeing as the relentless non stop rain had a negative effect on most activities, my fainting in the crowd antics made me miss the few known acts, and every day I had strongbow for breakfast hopefully gives you an insight into why this may not be the best account of the festival.

The student atmosphere lived up to all expectations, even when we were drenched.  However all the fun activities listed in the programme and promised on the website, including yoga, zumba and parkour, were nowhere to be found.  This maybe due to the wet weather but everyone we asked had no idea and couldn’t point us in the right direction. (Hence more tent-time drinking).  The beach was also a bit of a letdown, as it is the highlight of the festival given the title, so I expected more than a few water sports and a sandcastle competition and a less than 40 minute walk to actually see sand.

Having said all that, it was still a fantastic festival and amazing value for money.  Musical highlights included Ed Sheeran, Professor Green, Tinie Tempah and Example.  Other highlights included a silent disco every night, paintballing, a lovely massage tent and a chance to name my boobs Drum and Bass with fake tattoos.  I’d definitely recommend Beach Break to any students next year; I might even go again and relive my youth if I think I can still hack it.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Dance Wembley

So I’m going to try and put into words what it was like dancing in front of 90,000 people and millions more worldwide.  But the thing is, it’s impossible to describe.  What I can say is this: before I walked on that pitch, after standing in the tunnels for an hour, I thought this is surely one of the most overrated experiences of my life.

But that was obviously before I marched onto the pitch, two umbrellas in tow, to the deafening London Calling melody and the sight of 90,000 roaring football fans.  Even the fact that all my eyes could see was the Barcelona colours didn’t dishearten me – and I am a pretty big United fan.

So why, I hear you think, did I proclaim performing in the Champions League Opening Ceremony was overrated?

Well, let’s just say the rehearsal period was not the most exciting.  Mostly rehearsing in fields and car parks, it was not the glamorous event it had been hyped up to be.  Of course, the hype mostly came from family and friends who simply couldn’t believe I’d be performing at Wembley on TV (Except ITV cut us out, miserable sods).  Even still, this was the biggest project I had been – and probably will ever be– involved in, and with Ashley Wallen choreographing with his classic commercial style I was ready to dance my heart out.  Apart from that didn’t get to happen, as it turns out half of us in the performance were deemed to be umbrella twirlers rather than dancers.  We were treated to a slight bit of choreography in our first rehearsal, but due to unforeseen circumstances, (dodgy props shipped from China), this had to be cut.  I honestly don’t mean to sound bitter, but I know everyone in my group felt that their talent was undoubtedly being wasted.

I really don’t want to sound ungrateful for this opportunity, because it truly was a once in a lifetime experience.  But I don’t want my blog to be rose tinted, and the truth is that most dance jobs are going to be like this – amazingly thrilling and glamorous to the outside eye, yet behind the fa├žade it’s long hours and irritating artistic directive decisions.  In this case, that disguised part of the job also involved shivering in Wembley tunnels in fishnet tights and ripped tops for three hours before we could get on the pitch to do one run through. (You won’t believe how protective they are over that grass!)     

So, I have learnt a lot from this experience, far too much to mention here.  One of the greatest things I will take from it is learning to have faith in the production.  No matter how negative I felt at times during the rehearsal period, for those two or three minutes on that pitch, I knew it had all been worth it.  Although I felt my part in the performance, consisting of running and swishing an umbrella, was rather trivial – the footage of the whole ceremony looks incredible.  It was mentioned in one rehearsal that we should all apply for the Olympic Ceremonies, as we now have the experience they’ll be looking for.  At the time, I admit I thought to myself that I’d rather dress up as a hotdog and do the Macarena at a holiday camp than go through these tedious rehearsals all over again.  However, looking back now, I realise that the only way I’m ever going to feel that adrenaline and excitement that I felt at Wembley is to do the next best thing – perform in the 2012 Olympics Ceremony.  So check back to my blog next year to see if I surrender and take part – who knows, I may even get to throw some dance moves in this time.  

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Welcome to my Blog!

Hi everyone,
Welcome to ReviewCentral, where reviews focus on dance but expand to other entertainment such as theatre, film and music.  I will also be blogging other musings I have, that will also be mostly dance related, such as my experiences as a recent graduate.