“The stumbling blocks of our teenage years where emotions and friends rule” are the focus of Erik Kaiel’s O Snap, a piece of dance theatre aimed at children from age ten and up. Moments of impressive physicality, choreographic consideration and theatrical performance combine to create a work that analyses one of the most emotionally turbulent periods of our lives, and the friendships that help us through it.
As the audience enter the theatre, a trio of dancers have already begun performing movement reminiscent of street and urban styles, a dance genre that permeates the choreography of the entire piece. It’s a slightly disappointing, superficial start for what claims to be an “in-depth look at our teenage years”. Not every teenager is embroiled in urban culture and it feels like an oversight to represent the entirety of youth culture with a dance style that is not representative of the whole demographic.
Yet despite this narrow minded view of teenage experience, O Snap does display moments of insight explored through creative physicality. The dancers perform choreography that is acrobatic and athletic, demonstrating gravity defying lifts and partner work. That there are three performers perfectly facilitates an exploration of group dynamics, encompassing themes such as hierarchy and being left out, and the presence of a lone female also opens up a platform of discussion around inter-gender friendships, and the challenges they present during puberty. Two male performers confrontationally fight for an elusive reason in a testosterone fuelled display of developing masculinity. One particularly insightful section displays a male and female pairing becoming more physically/ romantically involved (contrasting their previously platonic relationship), and the spare male dancer attempting to lodge/attach himself to their bodies like some parasitic third wheel that we can all identify with. At times the romantic element is questionable considering the young target audience Kaiel has aimed his work at. Yet, the fact that it is hard to decipher scenes in which the performers awkwardly attempt to embrace, descending into rippling and thrusting bodies together, suggest that the more lewd connotations may go over the youngest kids’ heads.
The piece comes to a conclusion with the dancers dancing with abandon underneath a strobing spotlight suggesting the setting of a club or disco. Whilst nightlife is a valid part of one’s late teens, clubbing feels like a slightly irrelevant topic to the mainly under-eighteen audience present. This seems to summarise the main issue with O Snap: it has attempted to explore in 55 minutes a period of life spanning 8 years which is extremely multifaceted and varied. Perhaps the work would have been more cohesive if the company had condensed their exploration further in order to find a niche area in which their intelligent choreographic moments had more chance to shine through, instead of being clouded by confusion and overreaching aims.
O Snap is being performed in various venues across London until October 22 as part of Dance Umbrella Festival 2016.
Photo: Anna van Kooij