Review – Verve – Postgraduate Performance of the Northern School of Contemporary Dance by Hannah Goslin

Review – Verve – Postgraduate Performance of the Northern School of Contemporary Dance
Hannah Goslin
3rd May 2014 – National Dance Company Wales, Dance House
Entering the Dance House of the National Dance Company Wales, the audience already was a mix of a variety of demographics and all obviously full of excitement and interest for the show to unfold. For a postgraduate show, the turn out itself was very impressive.
The audience was left to become accustomed  in the dark until a golden haze crept across the stage, cast by the lighting to compliment the figures elegantly entering from the wings. The dancers were kitted out in skin tight golden one pieces, with enlarged bottoms. Straight away, this gave a comical effect to the beginning piece as well as a sense of confusion to the costume choices. ‘Re-wind’ took images from artist Yeruba Yelsdraeb, who drew grotesque images of figures with strange placements of their hands, large bottoms and grotesque faces. The idea behind the golden costumes in contrast to Yelsdraeb’s original Victorian style outfits was to show the contortions of the dancers bodies to compliment the grotesque characters as well as to de-gender-lise them – however, a skin tight suit obviously makes this a little difficult to achieve. I found myself in two minds about this piece; there was an element of melodrama with the facial expressions of the dancers and also an element of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ with what I interpreted from the narrative. Personally, I feel that, in dance, expressions are translated into the movements and without prior knowledge to the stimulus, it seemed out of place. However, the dancers strong movements were interesting but at the same time, left me wondering where the more ‘contemporary’ part of the dance element was.
A contrast to the first piece, ‘Mute’ began with very earthly music, costumes and scene. The programme describes this piece as ‘an intricate and haunting landscape in which narrative is torn between logic and lost meaning’ and this was very evident by the initial impressions. Mute showed more of a contemporary aspect to dance, with the usual fluidity that you would expect. However, there were contrasts between this fluidity and sharp movements, both from the dancers as an ensemble and as individuals standing out from the crowd. Dancers Marie-Corrin Chilon and Leanne Horsey, for me, stood out the most in this piece. Marie’s concentration and how she easily threw her elegant frame across the ‘haunting landscape’ was eye catching. Mute ended its stylish and energetic movements with Leanne’s jagged and intriguing movements of which seemed to become faster and faster till she was only a impacting blur.
After a short intermission, a new and completely different production unfolded. ‘You, Me, the Door and the Floor’ began as a comical and interesting work of performance art. An almost game show about love and relationships, the main character went through an experience of a dance blind date, picking planted dancers from the audience and experiencing what a relationship with each character would be like, to find the ‘one.’ A delightful and funny game show host in the form of dancer Sandro Piccirilli (who steals one of the potential loves) executed the comedy effect well and was consistently in character, as were all the dancers. Metaphorical images and use of voice and microphone technology gave this a different feel from a dance piece and was a very interesting concept. A image of a turbulent relationship with animalistic noises and dance-fight images illustrated to the audience something that we all could relate to. The energy that was put into images such as ‘jumping through hoops’ and unadulterated lust and love were consistently high and impressive to how these dancers managed to keep this at top peak while using acting and speech.
Finally, the piece that I felt we had slowly been leading up to, ‘Ocean.’ A reminiscence of ‘Mute’ with its early colours and warmth of the set and costumes was then slightly contrasted by the use of folk music, giving a more modern day twist to a potential mirroring piece. Ocean was astounding. Again, the level of energy seen through all the pieces was at its top and in fact, was above this with the constant fast paced movement. A use of deep and naturalist voices were used, resonating around the room and almost impacted you as an audience member deep down into your chest and stomach each time. Contrasts of the traditional contemporary movement to the naturalistic beating of the dancers feet with an external rhythm to the music was an impressive sight to see. The elements of dance, vocals, rhythm and acting skills show that these graduates are something special. Over all, the climax of the piece with this beat and vocals left you in complete awe and was the crescendo that one would want but not necessarily expect at the end of a contemporary dance piece.

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