Tag Archives: contemporary dance

Review: MK Ultra, HOME

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MK Ultra by Rosie Kay Dance Company

HOME, Manchester [04.05.17]

This Is Fake Theatre.

Welcome to MK Ultra – a physical embodiment and exploration of the 1950’s LSD mind control experiments conducted by the CIA and a window into the intertwined affair of pop culture and the illuminati.

Our evening begins with a film projection within the shape of an equilateral triangle and escorts us back to 1957. Two men are arguing in a bowling alley about the order and chaos of the world and conclude that the world needs a new way, a new religion so that everyone can think for themselves. However when this movement takes off, just like all freedom movements, demands for and the seeking of power escalate. Cue Operation Mind Fuck – with support from a couple of Playboy Bunnies and a lilac animated bunny. And let the games begin.

From here on in, we observe as seven dancers express the compulsions and attempts to resist the declarations of the ‘norm’ – whatever that even is. Are each of their movements their own planned decisions or are they moving like this because pop culture subtly told them to? This high energy, acrobatic performance is perfectly fluid and each movement is clean and controlled. The use of levels takes us on a visual roller-coaster of incredible stunts and tableaux that reel the audience in. Welcome to Operation Mind Fuck.

With a palette of trippy, ecstatic colours and a reel of projections ranging from Alice in Wonderland animations to Marilyn Monroe, Rosie Kay Dance Company have successfully created a piece of dance theatre that really challenges us an audience and forces us to question everything we think and feel about this performance and the world beyond the one it has created. Cosmic purple flowers blooming, Mickey Mouse conducting an invisible orchestra and Dorothy’s red slippers clicking repeatedly are just a handful of the images that lay imbedded in your mind. And all of this against a mashed up soundtrack of Chaka Khan, Michael Jackson, Britney Spears, takes us into a blended confusion that it is still quite hard to process. MK Ultra is so distinct and dedicated to its exploration that it had me constantly trying to work out what I was listening to and seeing. At points, I was sure that I could here Narayan by The Prodigy, Toni Basil’ Hey Mickey and Wake Up by Hilary Duff – though I’m pretty sure the latter was in my head, imposed by the overt Disney references, colour charged cityscape projections and hypnotising floor sequence. You know these triangular messages are truly messing with your mind when you’ve got Hilary Duff going round and round in your head… Wake up, wake up on a Saturday night, could be New York, maybe Hollywood and Vine, London, Paris maybe Tokyo, there’s something going on anywhere I go… Yes, there was certainly something going on here…

MK Ultra is nothing short of incredible. I like to be confused and moved from my comfort zone in the theatre and this successfully did that. I am currently in a state of ‘what on earth happened to me last night?’ and have been listening to DJ Rashad’s Twitter to try to counteract this. But, maybe that’s what they want me to do… Welcome to Operation Mind Fuck.

Verdict: A trip the light fantastic level of weird and confusing – absolutely phenomal piece of dance. Would highly recommend.

 

 

 

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Review: Turn, Contact

turn

Image: Holly Rush

Turn: a micro-festival of North West dance

Contact, Manchester [28.04.17]

This review covers: Origami by Kapow Dance, Madre by Peter Groom Dance Theatre, Saiserit by Giorgio de Carolis, The Album of Love by Ane Iselin Brogeland, Periodo Blu by Matrafisc Dance, What’s Mine Is Yours by Coalesce Dance and INFAMY by The inFamous Five.

Three spaces continually evolving in response to the bodies within them that become rhythmic story books in the presence of both song and silence. Turn brings new work to the table created and performed by dancers from the North West of England. In its ninth year, the festival featured 12 new works (a number of which running simultaneously due to space capacity and then repeating at the end of the night).

The evening began in space 1, opened by Eithne Kane of Kapow Dance. Origami was a piece true to its name. Kane’s body folded , creased, turned, rolled and held shape in this bold articulation of what bodies are capable of being and communicating.

This was then followed by Peter Groom’s striking performance of Madre. A piece of dance theatre that gave us Paris Je T’aime meets the Wizard of Oz meets meets Marilyn Monroe and so much more. Peter walks out on to the stage with a nude stocking over his head, a plain t-shirt, boxers and red heels. Moving from strolling to symphonic signing, Peter takes us on a journey of lamenting what may or may not have been. We become part of this journey as he beckons us to come to the stage but, his offer is silently declined. This piece was filled with humour and passion and blurred the lines between dance, theatre and live art. An exceptional offering to start off the night.

At this point, the audience were split in two – one half went to see the following shorter pieces in space 5 (which I did not see): Only Speak When Spoken To by Meraki Collective, The Intersection Series by Jo Cork, The Visitor by Born + Bred Theatre Dance and A Film with Hope by Grace Surman & Clare Dearnaley. In space 2, two longer pieces were presented to the audience: Saiserit by Giorgio de Carolis and The Album of Love by Ane Iselin Brogeland.

Saiserit is a simplistic yet captivating piece of dance – repeated phrases delivered with precision and emotion lead us on a journey that pursues both knowledge and denial simultaneously. The relationship between Giorgio, a small black box and a mirror encourage us to reflect on ourselves. We watch him conceal his face with the box, pursue it and gaze into the mirror with his back to us. It is only half way through this piece that music is played. And in recognition of that change, it is apparent that this piece is very special. It can live in silence yet give us a wholly meaningful sensory experience. It makes us reflect on how much we really know and how much we are both knowingly and unknowingly ignorant of.

The Album of Love by Ane Iselin Brogeland followed and delivered what I can only begin to describe as the most poignant moment of the night. The piece I Want To Know What Love Is by Foreigner, Sexual Healing by Lionel Richie and a voice-over that talks of love: love is an act of surrender. Throughout this piece, Ane surrenders her self to the audience, the movement and to herself, all in an exploration of the states and expressions of love that can be experienced. She expresses the struggles and suffocations that we have all felt at some point. But the real power of this piece is in the shaking and the breathing – open to interpretation but nonetheless, relateable. By far, the gem of the night.

Following an interval to two audience halves were brought back to space 1 to watch the final three pieces (before being given directions to watch pieces they hadn’t opted for earlier). Two duets and a group piece graced the stage. Matrafisc Dance offered us a couple – one trapped in the past and one day dreaming of the future – each trying their hardest not to lose their head (their polystyrene one, quite literally). We observe their individual torment but longing to exist in the same space. The synchronisation of the performers, Antonello Apicella and Ina Colizza, was completely flawless and beautiful to watch. A relationship of equal beauty could be found in Coalesce Dance’s What’s Mine Is Yours? Anna Papatheodorou and Fern Maia gave a subtle yet thought provoking performance exploring how female strength can fight back against harassment. This was the sort of dance that was nice to watch at the time but it’s underlying message really hit home upon leaving theatre and has stayed with me all day. A good example of how we can use dance as activism.

And lastly, The inFamous Five took to the stage to perform Infamy – a comical yet serious look at a world that chose both Brexit and Trump …and how this world observes the women that reside in it. A great soundtrack, incredible facial expressions and a poke straight in the eye of politics. Raise your teacups and applaud.

On leaving the theatre, I reflected on what I had seen and how it made me feel. And then, I remembered that Akeim Toussaint Buck was unable to perform due to illness – he is one of the artists who drew my attention to Turn. However, I was also thinking about the lack of dancers of colour in the festival and wondering why this was the case. All of the organisations involved actively work with artists of colour, so I was surprised and a little confused at this. But, I guess the way to change that is to shout about Turn and encourage dancers of colour to apply and bring their offerings to the table. Turn is a fantastic platform and bringing more artists of colour to this platform can only build upon its unique offering.

Verdict: On the whole, Turn has been one of the highlights of my arts calendar so far this year. It has delivered new, innovative, relateable and meaningful dance theatre from a strong mix of northern talent. It is the sort of event that you go and shout about.

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Review: Not Today’s Yesterday, The Lowry

Not Today's Yesterday

Photo: Dagmara Gieysztor

Not Today’s Yesterday

Concept and Performance: Seeta Patel; Choreography: Lina Limosani; Visual Dramaturg: Dagmara Gieysztor

The Lowry, Salford [19.04.2017]

Sitting in darkness, we see a woman standing ornately. Waiting. Ready. And the story begins… a fairy tale about a far away land with ‘rivers of chocolate’ and ‘rain like diamonds’, is delivered by an external voice over and lip synced by the performer, Seeta Patel. The voice is calming and welcoming, with all the right intonations to lull a child to sleep. Although this destination, this land of nod is made of the sort of dreams that manifest themselves as nightmares for the inhabitants of the dream – almost like if the Wizard of Oz happened from the perspective of the bad witch. Except, this time she’d masqueraded as the good witch to gain your trust and the emerald city is a realm of translucent plastic.

Your journey through this land is a dance. It is a dance that you may be unfamiliar with, but nonetheless it is a dance that is gloriously uncomfortable and one that you open yourself to partake in. Blending Bharatanatyam with contemporary dance and, using the body as a storytelling map, Not Today’s Yesterday takes you on a journey to India, excavates the whitewashed history of the British Empire and hangs it out to dry.

In building a collision between contrasting materials and an absent colour palette, this piece immerses us in a world outside of the one we are familiar with. Yet, in using what resembled a curtain pull as a representation of hair, this piece immediately embodied a space that is prevalent in the lives of anyone who inhabits the diaspora. For women of colour, hair means and exemplifies a multitude of things and whilst these meanings differ for different groups of women, we share the experience of hair playing a part in our identities, both internally and externally. And when the hair is cut, the nightmare and dissociation begins…

***

Your fairy tale journey ceases when you are faced with white paint being poured slowly down a translucent screen. You watch it drip. See Patel lie on the floor behind it. Wait. You watch her study it and distort the clean lines into a hazy mess. You watch her clear a circle to look through. Then you watch a shadow, jolting to sonic screwdriver-esque noises. And then you are faced with the elitist in plastic clothing with a long white braid. Dancing. And telling you to ‘get over it’.

This is what it’s like to live in the diaspora. To be in an alarming and confusing state of being force-fed a whitewashed curriculum and being expected to grin and bear it. To be silenced constantly because your white peers don’t like feeling uncomfortable. To not fully know your history, heritage and the whole of your mother tongue, because the language of the history books tells you what it desperately wants to hear itself. This is what it’s like to be othered everyday.

This is an important piece of dance theatre. It is authentic and honest but most importantly, it wills you to think for yourself. And for the white audience member, this is the well crafted and challenging Dear White People of theatre.

Verdict: An exceptional piece of political theatre that speaks volumes without a word being said on the stage.

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