Live Dance at #PopUpPatio York Theatre Royal

Dance Artists Show The Way Forward in Time of Covid. Friday Aug 14th I travelled to York to check out some live dance performance. [Feels good to say that again] A specially curated, production by York Dance Space to launch York Theatre Royal’s #PopUpPatio event series.

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#PopUpPatio at York Theatre Royal Picture: Phil Neath

The performance took place on a bespoke stage outdoors, in a secluded courtyard space, greenery on one side and the grey slate and glass of the theatre on the other. Social distancing was observed, and bubbles with spaces designed for two people. In each bubble were two deck chairs, so capacity was a modest but wholly appreciative two dozen or so. [Feels alien to be highlighting such a small figure] Also there was sanitising on entering and all theatre staff wore visors, so it felt incredibly safe throughout.

There were five acts on the bill, some of the most exciting dance artists in the north, each provided moments of magic, a reminder of just what a diverse and joyful place the dance world can be.

“Performances included solo work from Alethia Antonia (Russel Maliphant, James Wilton Dance Company), Coalesce Dance Theatre, Daisy Howell (Brink Dance Company), Namiuki Dance and a selection of ‘Doorstep Dances’ from Hull based artists Tamar and Jo including contemporary, Northern Soul, jazz dance and physical theatre styles.” Taken from #PopUpPatio listings 

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Jordan Coalesce Dance Theatre Picture: Phil Neath

Jordan a dance artist from Preston opens with a step-by-step guide, to deflate the patriarchy prompting the desired response: laughter and nods of agreeance. An emotional solo dance work follows incorporating spoken word, with seafaring imagery, hooks that pull and tug the body in all directions. Finally Jordan shares a timely profundity about needing you and a million others in a piece exploring the tension between desire and freedom.

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Tamar and Jo Picture: Phil Neath

Two painted chairs placed on stage, one yellow, one red, two dancers in similar spotted shirt/ dark trouser combo, crouching behind each. This was the first of three appearances for Hull dance company Tamar & Jo, performing selected works from their highly publicised Doorstep Dances project. In a very short space of time the promo video has had north of 5k views, with the pilot performances delighting households across the region. The lively choreography and music ‘Curse of the Contemporary’ elicits a feeling of sheer joy, surely heralding the same response from all those lucky folk who experience a Doorstep Dance in the coming days. [These are specially devised dances from the Doorstep Dance menus, so I’ll not be giving anything more away here]

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Namiuki Dance Picture Phil Neath

The conversation switched to breaking and bubbles with B boy Namiuki. He played with the audience, initiating a conversation with an improvisation, deconstructing break dancing.  His legs and feet like liquid, like spaghetti, as he folds to the floor, somehow sweeping one leg under/ over the other: Tricks and flips combined with contemporary phrases: stop, start, repeat, fast forward all making for some wild dance moves.

Another glimpse into what is in store for recipients of a Doorstep Dance: this one more dance theatre in style performed to two Beatles numbers.

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Daisy Howell Picture: Phil Neath

There followed a utopian prayer to nightclubbing, performed by Daisy: an ode to dance music, to individuality to finding and being your true self. A series of movements almost imperceptible grew, as hands formed shapes around words, spoken phrases prompted movement, suggested imagery, a face, an other reflected in the glass. The music pulsated, I’m reliably informed to a track by Caribou, that sees Daisy showing herself as she is in the club: free and euphoric.

If it were not for the bubbling I’d have likely done more than tap along enthusiastically. I was hooked by the atmosphere she created, overlaying her own spoken phrases to segue into more hardcore dance steps. I loved the way Daisy was connected to the music, the intention and energy building all the time.

Before the finale there was a third piece from Tamar and Jo, this one comes with a bit of a rock genre twist and is not to be missed.

Mystic, Warrior, Siren three words I write down to characterise the final work at the #PopUpPatio in York tonight. For the first five minutes without leaving a simple box placed stage right Alethia performs a series of slow moving phrases while remaining in contact with the prop. Stage left sits a second artist Akeim Toussaint Buck, at a sound desk, mixing live vocalisations, percussive sounds and beat-boxing.

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L to R Akeim Toussaint Buck, Alethia Antonia Picture: Phil Neath

There’s a connection between the two of them, something passing from one to the other, that feels deeper than just watching for cues. Alethia has amazing hair, her dreads cascade changing her silhouette, shielding, shaping her face, changing the way her remarkable movement feels and looks. My lasting memory will be a spectacular head balance on the box, with both legs moving fluidic in the air, as if disconnected from the rest of her, and her song in the evening air, rising above the noise of the city, taking us back to where we began over an hour ago; to water.

A very special evening, thanks and praise to the organisers and theatre staff, and to the supporters who perhaps for the first time in months, saw live performance again.

During the tech rehearsal as the sun beat down on the courtyard space a gentle hubbub of artists and staff going back and forth and like a child starved of their favourite show I sat saucer-eyed and drank in all that I saw and wrote…


Open air

Dance again

The feeling again

Performance again

Feels like I am home again

The joy of feeling alive again

Live photos courtesy Phil Neath of York Theatre Royal Photographic Group 


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Filed under Art blogs, dance

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