The line-up for the fourteenth Cloud Dance Festival is arguably one of the best yet. Since 2007, when the platform was founded by Chantal Guevara, it has provided a medium for new talent to be showcased, making dance more accessible and providing a platform for new creations. Consequently, new and exciting choreographers are attracting new audience members, stimulating interest in exploring dance further as well as nurturing the keen interest that many already have.
Showtime is Cloud Dance’s first festival funded by Arts Council England – quite an achievement given the current economic climate with significant and substantial arts funding cuts. A vast range of choreographic styles and ideas is particularly evident at the festival. Friday’s programme consists of a combination of solos, duets, trios, quartets and quintets, and the themes vary hugely; the topics tackled go from internal torment and self-doubt to the perceived differences between reality and illusion.
A trio of female dancers from Lo-Giudice Dance opened the festival, with a reworked version of Distant Light. Their grounded and well-articulated movement successfully embodied the composer’s original theme: turbulent struggle for independence. Me and My Shadow (Rutherford Dance Company) is a cleverly choreographed and wonderfully executed piece that demonstrates their strong ensemble work in a series of sequential lifts. The fluidity of this contrasted with the sharpness and clarity of Rebecca Namgauds’s Severed Dreams, which provided an energy and vigour throughout. The three performers had no contact at all in the whole 15 minutes, yet maintained a sense of breadth and richness which complemented their excellent facility of movement. Kirsty Dawson’s What Lies Beneath may not have been as technically challenging as some of the other pieces, but certainly made a statement with the dancers’ flowing hair dictating their movement and revealing the four girls’ talents. The premiere of Jo Meredith’s Chimera (defined as an “illusion or a fabrication of the mind”) included spoken word by Sean Damian Bruno. Incorporating the concept of magician’s trickery as well as shadows and uncertainty, the performance was delivered with a wide-eyed innocence, making us question our role as an audience.
Bricolage Dance Movement brought an extract from Anna Buenomo’s Story of a Night Pianist to the festival, having recently performed outdoors at Trinity Buoy Wharf. Presenting the haunting narrative of a husband murdering his wife in a more conventional space gave the piece a totally different feel, and dancers Sacha Flanagan and David Gellura did well in imitating the same tension and conflict at the Bernie Grant Arts Centre without the atmosphere created by a live performance of Maestro Lorenzo Turchi-Floris’s beautiful piano music. The passion and power in their performance remained despite such a huge change in the performance venue, and the focus solely on the couple’s relationship made it much more real and intense.
But the most memorable performance of the evening has to be Autin Dance Theatre’s premiere of Taksim Square Reloaded which dealt with the topical subject of this year’s popular protests in Turkey against Erdogan’s government. The technically demanding and challenging choreography was consistently precise, but most importantly never lost its performance intensity and focus; the juxtaposition of hatred and desperation in Johnny Autin’s eyes became increasingly moving as the movement became more frantic. Autin’s choreography and delivery encompassed the violent clashes with the riot police, conveying brutal strength and an admirable determination.
Cloud Dance Festival has presented a wonderfully varied programme at this year’s festival, and its ambitious plans for expanding in the future are very exciting for emerging performers and choreographers. By including companies from further afield, Cloud Dance is widening its horizons, which can only improve the festival by making it even more versatile and inclusive of all the creative talent that the UK, and indeed the world, has to offer.