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Cloud Dance Festival: Open Your Eyes

by Catherine Hooper

Friday, 17 July 2009 -- Jacksons Lane Theater, London

A midsummer deluge put no damper on the opening of Cloud Dance Festival. Jacksons Lane hosted the emerging festival, celebrating contemporary dance in all its variety. From street styles to physical theatre, new, emerging and established companies were given the opportunity to showcase their current work.

Intrinsic Dance expressively chose contrasting dance styles to convey their theme of power shifts within relationships in “Is This Your Journey”..   Dynamic street styles evoked a sense of dominance set starkly against softer fluid movements suggesting innocence -- a probing physical inquiry into, and assessment of, control versus subservience.

Fragmented Performance Company presented a compelling venture in their merging of dance and visual image in “(re) Birth of Venus”. Each performer physically responded to and interpreted the image that inspired the piece. It was a delight to spot movements that echoed one another, reverting to the original image and unifying the dancers in their interpretation. With the audience unable to see the original Birth of Venus image, the catalyst for the piece, it was difficult to fully appreciate the dancers’ interpretations. However, striking images were left to linger in one’s mind, for instance a final lift that created a powerful asymmetric silhouette.

A creative merge of multi-media, voice over and dance make for a wholesome exploration of our notion of romance in The ‘Why Not’ Collective’s “On Romance”. Silent video projections provided a traditional romantic context, whilst the inclusion of live vocals of the film dialogue gave a contemporary discourse with the old-fashioned perspective. The ‘Why Not’ Collective effectively utilises differing styles to explore their theme. In this piece, a lovely moment was centred on the group all performing the same simple foot work, yet through subtle detailing, such as a cocked head or a leading shoulder, each dancer engaged with the group individually. This created different situations and relationships within the group but all based on the same steps -- an admirable physical discovery of the highs and lows of romance.

Piece By Piece’s “Beddiquette” is a playful adventure into the journey of sleep. Opening with the skilled portrayal of the waking of a ‘not-a-morning person’, Steven Murphy’s movement captures that precious state between sleep and slumber. Completing the sequence on the floor, the mix of isolated body movement blendd with elegant extension, suggesting the disgruntled emergence from sleep. Creative use of props, a duvet and comical detailing, combine to achieve an encompassing insight into the world of sleep.

Using interviews and real life accounts for inspiration, Vex Dance Theatre delves into the experience of life in Britain as a refugee in “Bluebird”. Excitement, fear, hope and resentment are carefully choreographed to portray the vast array of emotions that immigrants battle. An imaginative use of props  (suitcase, tea cups, hoodies) provides the piece with a journey and a lovely sense of detail. The company utilises the avenues of physical theatre giving the piece moments of character, connecting with the accounts, and steering clear of the dangers of stereotyping. One powerful moment involves dancers hurling themselves desperately at one another, being caught and supported for a fraction of time, then suddenly dropped and discarded -- a thought provoking physical interpretation of life as an asylum seeker in this country. It is a  brave and powerful piece.

Nexus Dance deserves recognition for the powerful, mature and confident choreography in “Soul Notes”. The company makes the most of each dancer and his/her style. Individuality is celebrated, exhibiting the talents of each member of the company. As each dancer performs, the remaining company remains in the far corner, ever present but detached. They each engage with the narrative, physically reflecting and commenting when it becomes their turn to respond. It is most effective that each dancer projects a real ownership over ”Soul Notes”, determining that an ensemble approach to theme, style, and choreography is where Nexus Dance excels. Committed and controlled execution matched with investigative and dynamic choreography ensure that Nexus Dance is a company to watch.

In Henry Fry and Riccardo Buscarini’s “Place of Non-Belonging”, three varying lengths of rope dissect the stage horizontally, attached at one end to the wall and at the other end around a dancer. The piece opens with such beautiful inertia and subtlety that initially the mind cannot register the motion. It is only after several long seconds that the audience realises the delicate progression of the movement; Fry and Buscarini have achieved an illusion. The piece centres around the manipulation of the rope as the dancers explore the possibilities the rope can offer. Suspension at gravity defying angles gives a quality of serene freedom to the piece. The progression of pace as well as space displays the advanced control of each dancer. Henry Fry and Ricardo Buscarini’s choreography is mesmerising and conceptual although there is room for experimentation and exploration of the possibilities the rope contraptions can achieve.

In “Sudden Change of Event”, Dam Van Huynh has created an intricate piece. Opening Brechtian-style, the dancers construct their very own set, laying tape down to create their performance space. The jump to the stylised use of dance immediately intensifies the dancers’ talent. The whole piece is reactionary, creating a dance conversation as each dancer responds to and engages with the others. Each movement, each moment, gives birth to the next, whether the sequence be contained to one dancer, one body part even, or shared between the company. A large rectangular frame is also innovatively manipulated -- once angled dangerously on the verge of toppling over but controlled by the foot of one performer.

Cloud Dance Festival has proven to be a lively and inspiring festival for the performer as well as the audience. The programming allows younger companies to share the stage with more experienced performers and also showcases a variety of different genres. That the quality of the work is varied is not a negative for the festival, rather a reason the evening works so well. Blooming ticket sales confirm the need for an event of this kind on the London Dance circuit. Coupled with the fact that Cloud Dance Festival remains an unfunded organisation, the festival, its organisers and its performers deserve admiration as the event grows each year. Look out in December for the next offering from Cloud Dance Festival.

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This article is also simultaneously published on the Cloud Dance website.


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