Transported from the set of Space 1999 or UFO the bobbed wigs and shimmery neck pieces, gave the The Others a mysterious sci-fi dream quality. Filing on to the Fruit stage to the euphoric sounds of ‘Hong Kong’ by Mauro Picotto, the movement is punctuated by poses held like silhouettes, morphing into something more fluid and rhythmic. This year Danza! 2015 returned to its origins by showcasing smaller contemporary works, for a live audience from a range of different companies. The varied programme interspersed with short film, curated by organiser Jo Ashbridge, proved popular with the Fruit audience which included, Martin Green and David Watson (Hull Dance Prize Judge) from Hull UK City of Culture Company.
The short dance films, were a new addition to the programming and offered a window, on to what is possible cinematically, with dance and dance installation. If there is a need to give dance more visibility and a bigger platform for the city, then the Ipswich film #intotheswich will surely have triggered a few ideas. Using the cityscape as a stage and projecting dancers on to the buildings, then having the scene move from building to building, like nocturnal dancing sprites, was thrilling.
Another film, co-choreographed by Jo Ashbridge and Maria Malone, showed a dancer on the shoreline turning and wheeling, mimicking the movement of waves and the body in water. ‘The Swimmer‘ with music by Phil France of Cinematic Orchestra had a poetic quality: sunlight and shadow played out on sand.
The third film was ‘Empty Nester‘ by Tommy Chavannes supported by The Place (one of the leading dance schools in the UK). This film explored the sense of loss and freedom when the children flee the nest. Ideas are explored surrounding memory and memory loss – the fear of losing oneself – as a dancer moves through the rooms and renews her relationship with her home.
In a change to my usual approach of not seeing a sniff of performance beforehand, I had been at the venue for some hours earlier. I was privy to some of the pieces developing during rehearsals, as movement and motion were refined in the performance space.
All afternoon I kept over-hearing dancers repeating words like cannon, cheese slice, cockroach, Michael. This was for a new work that tried to answer a question about exactly what is going on inside a dancer’s head, before they perform. In my 3 or 4 years covering dance, I’ve often wondered how they remember all those different moves.
‘We haven’t thought about spacing,’ by Hull Dance Prize Winners LO:CUS Dance Theatre sought to address these questions, with an imaginative new work that gave an insight into the ‘mind-chatter’ of dancers. Different positions and movements get assigned jokey names such as cheese slice and cockroach. Some light is shed on the inner workings, in a dance deconstruct with a sort of instructive inner monologue.
Strange primeval vocalisation accompanies the later movement, referencing Laban (a particular branch of movement) where it is held that movement, accompanied by verbalisation, allows dancers to access a greater range of expressive movement qualities.
Danced by Stephanie Potter, Lottie Hanson and Tamar Draper the piece takes on a playful childlike feel with each on all fours, slipping beneath the others’ arched bodies. An unusual piece that spoke to the intent and thinking, that lies behind composition and choreography.
Performed in three parts, ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It‘ by the comedy dance duo Non Applicables, looked at different moments in the cycle of love: the first being that of attracting a mate. For this the pair, took inspiration and choreographic ideas from nature, in particular the mating ritual of the Riflebird found deep in the forests of Papua New Guinea.
From the Bird of Paradise family, the male resplendent with velvety blue plumage, prances and parades on the branch, his uniquely shaped wings making a circle around his head. Wired online writes, ‘...he hops around looking like a UFO trying to land‘, a better description I’m yet to read.
The transference of avian movement with arm replacing wing, proud puffed up breast and so on, was remarkable. As I watched the primed Fenella Ryan, trying to attract the glittery Sian Myers, I could clearly picture the male bird from the nature documentaries, desperately trying to impress the female with feathery antics. Really clever, well observed and a great piece of physical theatre.
The second part with the animal heads dancing as if at a Saturday night disco, didn’t really do it for me once I’d got passed the ape heads on the human shoulders. The third instalment got down to the tricky business of love making: I know and on a school night too! Playing the part of a blow-up doll Fenella, clad in flesh-coloured body-suit, is pumped up and then manoeuvered into multiple positions, that, we are informed, afford varying degrees of satisfaction and pleasure… Whistles, hoots of laughter and more as the two girls demonstrated doggie position, the more contemporary X Factor and the jubilant Titanic, to the strains of Tina Turner.
The third of this triptych d’amour, was just the right side of bawdy, so as not to be offensive. Had it been a male female duet, questions may have been asked about impropriety, but being women, the Non-Applicables can get away with more – it wouldn’t be as funny either.
Danza! has a history of working with dancers and artists from outside the city. For 2015 we welcomed Rachael O’ Neill with her piece ‘Fragmented‘. This was perhaps the most cerebral of the night combining voiceover, music and live movement. Striking in appearance with shaved head, petite stature, performing a solo piece that was emotionally charged. Fragmented was inspired by images of childhood, created by illustrator Marion Fayolle, in this piece that seemed to chart a reluctant yet unavoidable coming of age.
The discarding of childhood ideas, to be replaced by repetitive adult routines, are suggested by the ever faster repetition of gloved hand movements. I really enjoyed ‘Fragmented‘, it has stayed with me for days after, which is exactly what a really good performance, should do.
The final piece inspired by the recent Hull Dance led ‘Lea Anderson Project‘, was a fitting finale to a great night of performance that, had had the whole crowd talking about dance. The mood heightened dramatically; drum beat pumping as orthodox Trance sounds of multilayered synths rose and peaked. The choreography by Jo Ashbridge with costume design by Anna Bean, was imbued with a curiously lithe, alien allure. Built upon sequences held frozen in time, creating sumptuous shapes it was more routine based, more pop, fittingly so seeing as the source material was a music video by the Scissor Sisters. ‘The Others‘ ended with a suitably eerie non-human bow.
The buzz inside Fruit after the show, as makers and creators engaged the dancers with talk of collaboration and performing new work, was gratifying to see. With more enthusiasm, energy and effort not to mention funds, for developing dance, it surely will play a significant role in Hull 2017 and beyond.
Follow https://www.facebook.com/DanzaHull/ @DanzaHull and @HullDance for details on the emerging programme and new platforms, supporting Contemporary Dance in Hull.
All images courtesy of Jerome Whittingham @Photomoments: To See Full Danza 2015 Gallery Go to: http://jerome.photoshelter.com/gallery/Danza-2015/G0000eFv2ykFoEyM/C0000uTR12nyiDFw