For one night only, MurleyDance stopped off at the Shaw Theatre with its spring tour, Object of My Affection. A classical dance company that prides itself on its theatricality, MurleyDance is a developing company with strong vision and great potential, and its progress over the next few years will no doubt be exciting. Object of My Affection, a triple bill focusing on human relationships with people, places, and possessions, is full of strong conceptual vision, but requires development before it realises its potential.
The first piece, Seated, is by MurleyDance’s founder and resident choreographer David Murley, and is a study of status and sentiment focused on the role of chairs through the ages. The first movement, set in the eighteenth century, is deliciously illicit, yet appropriately reserved. The dancers consistently display a certain degree of separation, whilst still conveying a sensual and erotically-charged experience. Also particularly enjoyable was the final sequence of the piece focusing on flat-pack furniture, which was an entertaining concept with some very strong imagery.
The concept for Seated was undoubtedly very strong, however its execution could have been better. A lot of the choreography was there in order to impress and look flashy, without any function in terms of storytelling. Some missed technique in landings that didn’t stick and weak ankles on demi-pointe ought to have been better concealed, and some dancers lacked expression. This said, it was still a highly enjoyable performance, and particularly impressive from such a young company.
There is a weak link in every triple bill performance, and in Object of My Affection this is À Une Passante. Based on a Baudelaire poem in which the poet glances at a beautiful woman passing by, and is overwhelmed with emotion at the thought that they will never know each other, this is a piece with great potential that is not quite realised. The audience was given a copy of the poem prior to the performance, but I still found the story a little unclear. I didn’t particularly understand the function of having four dancers on stage when two would have been enough, particularly when one dancer barely moved; this was simply a distraction. I also found the piece lacking in intensity and momentum, and longed for more expression in the dancers’ faces and movements. Lack of synchronicity and a few uncertain lifts were most likely due to nerves, but nonetheless detracted from the performance. Simply put, À Une Passante is good on paper, but not in practice.
Richard Chappell’s Into Decay puts us back on top as the final piece of the night. Questioning the reliance on technology at the expense of sentimental attachments, this was an aesthetically beautiful and extremely well thought-out piece, which stood head and shoulders above the rest as polished, dynamic, and energetic. The score, by Shaquille Livingston and Jorge Mendez, is truly inspired, and breathes life into the piece. The energy of the music, particularly when it is most reliant on electronic instruments, is passed on to the dancers, who are expressive and charismatic throughout. Motifs were put to great use in the choreography, with clean lines and strong shapes that left a lasting impression. At times it was difficult to gauge what was happening as there was so much to look at, but the overwhelming nature of the piece really worked for me, and I found it really enjoyable. Into Decay was the perfect way to end the triple bill on a high.
Object of My Affection is exciting and high quality in places, and merits seeing for fans of experimental classical dance in spite of its imperfections. MurleyDance, too, is a company worth watching in the future, and with Edinburgh Fringe dates and an autumn tour in the works, we are sure to see a lot more of it.
Object of my Affection played at the Shaw Theatre on April 27. For more information on MurleyDance, see the company website.