Monday, 25 July 2016

Motionhouse Broken - Review

Motionhouse Dance Theatre - Broken
Outdoor performance on Salford Quays, 16.07.16 (presented by Quays Culture)

A couple of weekends ago I had the pleasure of reviewing a free dance event for Salford Online. I was planning to go anyway and review it as I'm a Motionhouse fan, so it was great to get the VIP treatment!

The scene was set outside Media City; the large stage was waiting for the dancers to enter and a substantial crowd had gathered, eager to see this free performance. People of all ages were stood waiting in anticipation, (some had been clever enough to bring camping chairs) and for once the weather was on Salford’s side. Thanks to Quays Culture, the crowd were about to enjoy a thrilling multimedia ride into the shifting centre of the earth.

For the next hour or so, the crowd developed and people watched in awe as the epic scenes unfolded. Silence, which is unusual for large crowds, filled the atmosphere as we stood transfixed at the spectacle.

Motionhouse specialises in large scale outdoor performances, however Broken was devised as an indoor dance piece. Artistic Director Kevin Finnan had to adapt it for the outdoors, which included completely changing the first five minutes of the piece the day before, due to lighting issues. The original opening scene needed a complete blackout, which wasn’t possible at 9.30pm on Salford Quays. He also told me afterwards that he felt placing the show outdoors changed the feel of the performance altogether – the standing audience felt more connected to the performers and the themes, and the show grew in intensity as the skies grew darker.

The fluidity of movement and the exhilarating film backdrop created a mesmerising performance from start to finish. Athletic and poetic, the choreography was powerful and original, and enhanced by the creative scenes projected onto the stage. The audience was amazed by dancers hanging from bars, swinging around poles, dancing on stilts and falling from heights. 

The performers took us on a journey which represents our relationship to the earth, starting with the big bang which created our planet.  Other scenes took us deep underground, into the treetops and finally into a crumbling urban metropolis. The amazing ending scene was literally earth-shattering, as the dancers physically pushed themselves to the limits to survive the digital earthquake. 

Thanks to Salford Online and Quays Culture I was lucky enough to speak to the Artistic Director after the show and asked what had inspired him. It was easy to relate the scenes to his various stimuli – fossils and life underground, the Chilean miners’ accident and his travel experiences around the world.

I was amazed at the energy of the dancers, which truly brought the story to life. The powerful choreography was beautifully exerted, especially within the impressive duets throughout the piece. The piece is strikingly original; there is no other dance theatre company successfully integrating digital like Motionhouse. It was near perfect – the only improvements I’d suggest would be to do with the digital elements, which at times looked a bit unrealistic. The dancers can’t be faulted, but some of the choreography was a little bit cheesy or ‘obvious’ to the trained eye. However, this makes it more enjoyable and easier to follow for audience members new to dance theatre. This is certainly a show which can appeal to people of all ages and introduce new audience members to contemporary dance...and it was FREE!