For Cloud Dance Festival’s final instalment of its three-day festival, Showtime it really lived up to expectations, showing some of the best and most creative work from emerging and talented choreographers. With an evening of eight potent, powerful and political pieces of work, it would be unfair not to pay time and tribute to each performance and choreographer separately.
The opening of the last day of the festival was in the hands of Taciturn, with its performance of Femme, three short pieces playing with the ideas of femininity in society. A feminist piece, looking at everything from self-image to the exposing, flirtatious movements you might see in a nightclub, Femme was very dark yet perfectly balanced with humour. What was so captivating about these pieces was how they extended into the supernatural. The most interesting piece was the first, where the duo faced the back wall the entire time; a faux pas some would say, but this deliberate positioning by Taciturn was clever and powerful, removing the identity of the dancers and heightening society’s and the media’s voyeurism over the female body. A truly gripping company to watch.
Second on stage was Anthony Middleton with his performance of Mannum, which aims to explore creativity and inquisition. The piece’s power lay in Middleton’s skills as an international acrobatic gymnast, letting his hands investigate and manipulate his body into incredible positions, forms and balances. Subtly contrasting Middleton’s transgressive body, which moves with ease and beautiful fluidity, a small wooden puppet brought great realism to the idea of someone who may be creaky and stiff. Kirill Burlov blessed us with a poignant piece accompanied by violinist Satoko Fukuda. A match made with harmony, the striking of Fukuda’s violin and running of intense scales complemented Kirill’s strong choreography of power and struggle.
The most heat-wrenching piece of the evening by far was Don’t Let Me Go by Simfra Dance Company, choreographed and performed by duo Francesco Conquista and Simone Donati. The piece explored the struggles of being homosexual, from being exposed, feeling alone and the self-struggle within, with the message being – and I paraphrase – “what are you doing on your own? I want to hold your hand, to fight for you, with you”. Their message rang deep and pulled the heartstrings, complemented by Conquista and Donati’s flawless unison and entangling of bodies. Don’t Let Me Go is powerful and compelling to watch; although they are in their early days as a company, I hope they grow and continue to create such engaging work.
Avatåra Ayuso presented us with two pieces. The first was a world premiere of Balikbayan, a piece laced with chilling humour. A beautiful performance by Estela Merlos saw her with a dress over her head like some mythical creature searching for escape. As the dress intermittently moved down her body, Merlos ended up running round the stage, darting in and out of the wings, her dress slowly falling further and further down, till we were finally left with an image of Merlos caught with her dress round her ankles. This caused laughter to erupt from the audience, but the piece had a bone-chilling message of the hunt, and searching for security and placement. For her second piece, Ayuso herself performed Dalcroze, inspired by musician Émile Jaques-Dalcroze. A solid piece, Ayuso explored the body, a transition through finding the movements and rhythm of the arms, then the legs and then the full body. With her shadow dancing alongside her on the back wall, Dalcroze was an enchanting piece that left you in a state of trance.
The penultimate piece of the festival was Chimera by Jo Meredith, a piece entangled with spoken word written by Sean Damian Bruno. It’s a concept which is becoming more popular, with companies such as Portmanteau now using spoken word. Watching the performers glide around the stage, one performer in particular took the lead in weaving in and out of dance and spoken word beautifully. Perhaps more fluidity and merging of the mediums would have emphasised Meredith’s idea of illusion and fabrication more.
The festival ended on the incredibly funny and scarily realistic Wolfpack by John Ross Dance. A satire on men (or ‘lads’) in a nightclub, we were delighted with the views of a testosterone-fuelled stage, with lots of touching, grabbing and shaking of groins. From the dance floor, to club toilets, to hallucinations courtesy of drugs and alcohol, the piece really delved deep into a male world. The pure euphoric joy they had in creating the piece is clear and brought to life on stage. Wolfpack was hilarious and enjoyable to watch, and had reflections of The Hangover on stage. Perhaps some caution is needed, though, that the humour does not overpower the true message and sadness of the piece.
Cloud Dance Festival Showtime was a truly inspiring evening. The programme itself was amazingly well-structured with echoes of ideas, themes and imagery reflecting in work at just the right times. The politics of the pieces were perfectly placed and praise should be given to all who were in involved, especially Chantal Guevara for her clear passion and determination to giving a space for choreographers to present their work. After 13 previously unfunded festivals, this is the first Cloud Dance Festival to ever receive funding and I sincerely hope its success in gaining funding continues so it can continue to showcase great emerging choreographers.
Cloud Dance Festival was at the Bernie Grant Arts Centre 15-17 November. For more information please see the Cloud Dance Festival website.