With an onstage string quintet, mesmerising watery video projections, murky lighting occasionally shot through with shafts of sunlight, The Follow Through Collective’s Drowning has high production values. The theme is marine pollution. Our oceans are ‘drowning’ in micro-plastic particles, here represented, in one instance, by a dancer trapped in a transparent bubble. Her movement restricted, she roles around the space, before being liberated by the others. The deflated bubble is a sinister plastic slick, waiting to envelop and claim further life. The six dancers’ movement is fluid, lingering as if submerged, but it’s just one element of this portrait of an underwater paradise in fall.
Spot lit on an empty stage, a pile of worn shoes resonates with meanings - loss, the dispossessed, refugees, migration. Counterpoint Dance Company’s Journeys of Internal Migration is also about the changes that happen within – and a dozen brightly dressed dancers each claim their footwear and the stories they represent. The richness the age range of the performers (from teens to sixties) gives to the work is striking. In unison sections, the same moves are subtly different in each body. Where a voiceover gives instructions on how to move, there is sometimes disjuncture between voice and performer and a range of interpretations. But might difference make an individual an outsider? As one appears to be outcast, darkness hovers and is dispelled with a smile in an upbeat ending.
The starting point for Mil Vukovic Smart’s HILT is the Mad Scene from the ballet Giselle. It’s a glorious, fragmented mash up of contemporary, classical and found movement for four dancers. An eclectic set of costumes could have been grabbed from a dressing up box. The soundscape contains extracts of music from Giselle and in one deliciously incongruous moment, where the dancers move toward towards the audience in a series of formal ballet positions, the song Feeling Good. In its disjointedness, HILT gives a vivid sense of the traumatised mind. Bookends of extracts of an interview from Rambert’s sound archive with a ballerina who danced Giselle for Marie Rambert gives useful context to this shattered picture and a final piece of advice: ‘if you forget your steps, just keep spinning’.
Drowning transported us into the depths of the ocean. A live orchestra occupies downstage right surrounded by bottles and debris whilst two white drapes hang from the ceiling upstage. An eye-opening exploration of the poignant reality that our seas are dangerously infused with plastic. Drowning truly captured the audience. The dancers graced the stage with elegance, effortlessly embodying the fluidity of fish. Their costumes, a collage of blue, shimmering in the low light. This peace and tranquillity is soon disrupted by a frantic fight to help an enclosed fish escape from a giant plastic zorb-ball. Fear, panic and terror manifests but despite their desperate efforts the dancers slowly dissolve into heaps on the floor. The stage is dark and we are taken back to the seemingly calm waves, glistening in the night sky.
Counterpoint Dance Company presented an intergenerational piece, an investigation into how each of us see the world. First, we hear a voice-over, a monologue of the dancer who occupies the stage. An inner conversation about his shoes – provoking a humorous response from the audience. The humour is reiterated as a voice-over lists instructions ‘hands to hips, left leg to floor’ and the dancers respond accordingly. Memories of the all-time favourite party game Twister spring to mind! As the dancers transition through solos, duets, trios and whole group movement phrases, nuances appear across each individual’s expression of the movement. In contrast to usual observations the nuances do not disclose an unrehearsed piece, instead they highlight the notion of how we all interpret the world differently.
The night was completed with HILT by Mil Vukovic Smart. A piece inspired by the Mad Scene from the ballet Giselle. Unfortunately HILT left me feeling confused. During the piece I wondered if my lack of ballet knowledge hindered my understanding or whether the choreography simply lacked clarity. Despite this the dancers displayed incredible technical ability, particularly during a section of effortless leaps across the space. Sadly, I just couldn’t engage with the piece.