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Innovations Contemporary Dance Platform – Review

Innovations Contemporary Dance Platforms appeared at The Studio on October 15th with four emerging productions of contemporary dance practice that explored a variety of themes, among them: blindness, mental health, sexuality and climate disaster.

Although the show was produced by Dance Horizons, each performance was presented by a different dance company.

Sense by BDBlaq Company

The duo Rikkai Scott and Ayten Gokson set the bar incredibly high with the opening piece Sense. This performance explored the experience of blindness through a complex and impeccable routine embracing different styles that the company defined as “Tap Fusion Dance” (incorporating Tap Dance, Hip Hop and Contemporary Dance). The piece was created in collaboration with The Royal Institute of The Blind and a central theme that emerges through the routine is the resulting perception of the world for a blind person characterised by a world made of sounds, touch and perception of light. The duo responded brilliantly to the stage space, the lights, and the music, which activated different movements and routines thus becoming fundamental for the transmission of Sense’s message.

The dancers were formidable as they never looked into each other’s eyes, nor engaged visually with the public and at times performed while blindfolded, which heightened the theme of the dance. Their ability to do so made even more formidable their synchronous, composite movements and the level of emotional intensity they were able to communicate to the public through their sheer gestures. Exploring the joys as well as the hardships of navigating a world not accessible to blind people, they found comfort and joy in each other, shown through the entire routine heavily focusing on touch where the two performers remained connected touching a part of their bodies at all times.

Mania by ME Dance Company

A group piece called Mania was later presented by ME Dance Company. This performance portrayed the disintegration of the lives of a husband and wife impacted by their mental health issues. This piece was clearly ruled by the theme of dissonance: it was rare that all five dancers presented the same movements; rather duets or solo routines were preferred that mixed classical and contemporary techniques. The intense rhythm of the routine and fast-paced sequences of the movement were carried out at the cost of sacrificing the precision and coordination of the group’s movements: cacophonic routines where movements clash in disorganised ways seemed to dominate this piece.

Moreover, it was not completely clear the reasoning behind having four females and only one male dancer, given the piece was meant to explore a couple’s relationship. This led to creating certain gendered power dynamics within the piece that felt quite uncomfortable. Another shortcoming of this piece was represented by the overdramatic expressivity of the members of the crew that appeared almost on the verge of mocking certain behaviour traditionally associated with mental health issues. The performance would have benefitted from envisioning a mixture of intensity – both in the rhythm as well as in the dramatic acting of the company’s members – to better showcase the technical qualities of its members that at times appeared eclipsed by the overwhelming nature of the piece.

A Fragile Geography: Places by Daniel Navarro Lorenzo- Performed by Anna Borràs

This solo performance aimed at navigating the memory of nature in a future dystopic world where all is replaced by a synthetic environment. Anna Borràs delivered an incredible performance: technically excellent and full of emotion. Dancing over dystopic alienating music, her movements reinforced this sense of estrangement to her body as well as her surrounding space. A coherent piece carried out with impressive awareness of her gestures, from facial expression to the tips of her toes, it was able to leave the audience feeling alienated and disturbed by the prospect of a future void of nature and full of the synthetic.

Stigma MH by EQ Dance Co.

EQ Dance Co. concluded the show with Stigma, a performance revolving around the themes of mental illness impacting men in the LGBTQI+ community. A highlight of the performance included the metaphorical use of dark balaclava and layers of clothing. Covering the true identity of the interpreters, their struggles to come to terms with their mental illness and their sexuality, these items were shed during the performance representing an acceptance and confrontation of their feelings. Technically speaking, the dancers demonstrated remarkable skills. However, at times the choreography did not do them justice, with routines that appeared in certain passages improvised or not particularly polished. Although this piece could have benefitted from more coherence to better communicate its message, it still managed to move the audience, engaging with them on an emotional level.

Image credit: Capital Theatres