An evening of three very different pieces but drawn together with strong themes of intentionality, focus and a ‘yes’ to dance, making it a non-stop, engaging night at The Place.
Heavy on expression and zany characterizations, Frustra was brought to life by the duo Vicki Hearne and Murilo Leite D’Imperio. The pair began with visible disdain for each other and the disorganized musician (well played Sarah Moody!), breaking only to execute staccato movements that served as the words in what appeared to be a very tense conversation. The tantrum played out hilariously as D’Imperio grabbed the microphone and proceeded to call out and demonstrate the intended steps. It was a passionate tango, but not in the way you’d expect, as they stomped about and flung each other around. The costumes (best described as summer camp dress-up trunk) only added to the hilarity of the piece, choreographed by Julia Thorneycroft.
B-Hybrid Dance showcased a splendidly crafted piece, blending contemporary fluidity and hip hop musicality in Breaking Breath. Simple costumes in pale hues and beautifully landscaped lighting served to highlight the dancers as they performed like cogs in a well-oiled machine. A few delightful snapshots of whole group synchronicity (such a rarity these days) was interweaved among trios and duos which served to reveal the individual talents of Brian Gillespie’s diverse cohort.
A complete departure from the previous works, Joshua Beamish presented the male duet burrow with Matthew Ball and Nicol Edmonds of The Royal Ballet. Larger than life and consuming the entirety of the stripped stage, it was a move in the direction of contemporary dance vernacular, but the dancers still preferred to be standing and were most successful while articulating their lengthy limbs in a style that is only for the classically trained. The relationship between the pair was unclear, but romantic or otherwise there was a palpable connection to each other and dedication to the work.
The Royal Opera House came to The Place with a host of ballet VIPs in the audience for the evening’s concluding work. Joshua Beamish already has an impressive catalogue of choreography, performed by some great American ballerinas (Wendy Whelan and Ashley Bouder to the fore). Now, he’s come transatlantic to work with two Royal Ballet dancers – Matthew Ball and Nicol Edmonds – in creating burrow. Both guys have that rare marriage of impressive physicality with a gentle, poetic movement quality and Beamish’s choreography was sharp, maintaining a high momentum by conjuring diverse feelings and imagery from the dancers’ interactions and body language. It’s with all that in mind that I still felt vaguely disappointed with the end product. The first section, in particular, was busy but lacked flow. The dancers appeared to have problems with traction and it affected the continuum of their work by introducing an occasionally inappropriate staccato feel. Nonetheless, it is clear that Beamish is a classy choreographer; already well on his way up the ladder. And it is always a pleasure to see two young ballet dancers stepping outside their comfort zone in such challenging contemporary work.
The evening had opened with a playful piece by Julia Thorneycroft, which achieved the rare distinction of being genuinely funny dance theatre, significantly enlivened by the uninhibited performances of Vicki Hearne and Murilo Leite D’Imperio as two competitive dancers and Sarah Moody as a late and absent-minded musician.
The filling in this sandwich of comedy and ballet was B-Hybrid Dance’s Breaking Breath and - for the second year running – I was impressed both by Brian Gillespie’s free-flowing and eclectic choreography and his well-honed sextet of excellent dancers. The freedom expressed in a wide range of styles (contemporary, Irish, b-boy etc) is very effectively integrated by toning down each genre to a flavour, thus creating an agglomerated hybrid style that is innovative and fresh, here greatly enhanced by Cameron Gallaher’s original score.