The night's opening piece, The End of Dance, aims to be a comedy around the hypothetical situation that dance was a banned activity, a goal that it achieves. The performers, playing local MPs, get started with a pro-dance discussion that easily makes laughs a constant soundtrack. Thanks to the straightforward and almost childish humour, the audience gets ready for silliness. Later on, the natural way how dance should be defended takes over. The politicians cannot resist the temptation so, leaving rhetoric aside, they come together in a festival of amateur yet authentic body shaking. Even though this ending is quite predictable, it satisfies the way in which the audience wants it to finish.
The Rising welcomes the public into a warm familiar world. The dancers seem to be playing around in the middle of the Savannah like a pride of young vivacious lions. Sometimes they get into wild yet precise floor work, other times the group builds a fluid game ruled by contact. The live music combines African and Balkan beats, adding a level of savagery that the performers could push further. The stage feels crowded at some points, when too many stimuli are offered at once. Therefore, maintaining the focus becomes confusing. Despite that, the quality of movement of all dancers is delicious and demonstrates versatility, as well as their strong presence and palpable commitment to the piece.
Think Therefore...I Ham? brings a mysterious atmosphere to stage. Two fluorescent brains shine in the darkness until a stripe of light crosses the scene, revealing two female bodies. Their elegant, disjointed ways of moving augur a beautiful, eclectic duet that never happens. Instead, two plastic dolls are brought into the space and from then on nonsense takes over the performance.
The three MP protagonists in The End of Dance raise a false but most amusing alarm. The central comic conceit of Yann Allsopp’s nominally non-dance dance-theatre confection is that the British government has declared dance illegal. Allsopp and his nicely contrasted but equally game fellow performers, Rebecca Kenny and Jess Williams, examine the reasons and repercussions. They start by speaking from their seats, but by the finale are decked out in sleeveless unitards executing a near-priceless parody of self-inflated contemporary dance. The joke in this cheery piece of cultural rib-tickling may be slightly overextended but it is decidedly well-told.
Partially sourced in Fijian and Maori dance, the contemporary folk feel of Heather Walrond’s The Rising is potentially infectious. Music is this sincere ensemble work’s engine. Will McNicol and Luke Selby play their own score for drum and (especially fine) guitar. The movement they help generate amongst the six members of Walrond’s eponymous company, including the choreographer, embraces earthy rhythms and the sometimes tender rescue of supportive touch. The cast fibrillates and swirls, rolling across the floor. But it was only towards the end, as they began to push like collective flame into a more liberated physicality, that the piece itself began to reach me.
What to make of Amma Dance Theatre’s I Think Therefore…I Ham?? The title may not be especially clever, but it suggests that Amelia Forrest and Marion Geisler don’t take themselves too seriously. On the other hand programme notes pitch this peculiarly off-putting, self-indulgent duet as ‘a friendly reminder of our biology,’ and an invitation to ‘explore…the connection between your physical and intellectual self.’ I just took it as a poor piece of possibly tongue-in-cheek theatre featuring jerky undulations to spacey-spectral music, plus film of the duo romping with inflatable male sex dolls. Clad in lace-flecked shifts, and accompanied by music that’s all a haunted pock-pock twang, the women then arrive onstage with their blow-up toy boys. The latter, no surprise, come to a bad end.