Friday, 30 December 2016

ARTICLE: #FlashbackFriday Dancing Times bbodance rebrand and launch parties

This summer I wrote a short and sweet industry article for the Dancing Times about bbodance (formerly The British Ballet Organization), and their recent rebrand and summer launch parties.

Take a peek below!







Maya Pindar

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

CASE STUDY: Eszter Szalma & Hungarian Social Dance

This September my boyfriend and I joined my best friend Eszter and her partner Tamas to see them get married- Hungarian style. Eszter and I met at University of Roehampton, where we studied together and later travelled to the US to train at Goucher College as Dance Majors. So being one of Eszter's bridesmaids, visiting her hometown- and of course getting involved in Hungarian dance was amazing!


Photo credit: Arpad Molnar



A bit about Eszter...

Eszter is from the small town of Algyő in southern Hungary. She loves gardening, baking and above all, dancing. With her twin brother Adam, Eszter learnt Hungarian folk dance from the age of six. The classes focused on rhythm, musicality and community using traditional games, singing and creative tasks. From here, Eszter moved to ballroom, latin and ballet in her teenage years. Moving to London in her late teens, Eszter pursued formal dance training, which she found at West Thames College and University of Roehampton.


Photo credit: Zoltán Csenki



Hungarian dance...

Nowadays Hungarian community dance is usually only seen at weddings and special occasions when families come together to celebrate. However, for the generations that preceded Eszter and Tamas's generation, social dance was an important part of Hungarian culture. Social dances and balls were a place for communities to come together and for new romances to ignite. Eszter describes most Hungarian dance forms as typically including clicking fingers, slapping knees and singing. Additionally, Csárdás, a traditional folk dance that is often seen at weddings is characterised by a side-step. In rural areas of Hungary, gypsy influences are still visible in these dances- look out for shoulder shaking, clicking and fast rocking hips.


Photo credit: Arpad Molnar


Some Hungarian wedding reception customs...


  • Breaking bread - the bride and groom break a large ribbon of bread, who ever breaks the largest part will "wear the trousers" in the marriage

  • The red dress - half way through the night the bride changes into a red dress, to symbolise her new life

  • Throwing the bouquet - the bride throws her bouquet of flowers over her head. Like in English weddings, the lucky bridesmaid to catch the bride's bouqet will be the next to get married

  • Throwing the garter - after retrieving the garter from the bride's leg, the groom throws the garter over his shoulder and the lucky man to catch it will be the next to get married

  • The bride dance - also known as the money dance, the father of the bride or the best man will announce that the bride is for sale! Guests will then drop money into a hat or a bucket, to pay for the privilege to dance with the bride for a few minutes. The money will help the couple pay for their honeymoon and their new life together.

Photo credit: Arpad Molnar


So, what was the main aim of Eszter's wedding.... To dance till dawn!

Many of the guests told us that Hungarian wedding parties will often continue well into the morning. To give the guests an energy boost, a midnight breakfast is served at around 2am. Beef goulash, chicken paprikás and stuffed cabbage are some of the dishes that you might see at a Hungarian wedding,


Eszter and Tamas organised a folk band for the wedding, so after another shot of Pálinka (traditional fruit brandy, also known as Firewater in the UK) the dance floor is full again. The men kneel to slap the floor, encouraging Eszter to dance faster and sing louder. The women snap their fingers and bounce to the band. 

At 5am the sun is starting to rise, but the wedding reception is still in full swing. 


Photo credit: Zoltán Csenki





Sunday, 27 November 2016

REVIEW: Rashida Bumbray collaborates with Simone Leigh on Aluminium

Sat 26 Nov
Tate Modern
Simone Leigh & Rashida Bumbray - Aluminium

Closing her series of discussions, performances and workshops focusing on transatlantic Black Diaspora, Simone Leigh collaborates with New York-based choreographer and curator Rashida Bumbray on Aluminium. The immersive performance journeys through the concrete corridors of Tate Modern's the Tanks and Switch House, carrying the pain and desire to connect to African ancestry. 



Rushida Bumbray, Photo Credit: Jamie Philbert

Dressed in a floor length red dress, Bumbray sings African American spirituals, her voice echoing in the corridors. Lay down body, lay down a little a while..., a reminder of African slave burials and the influence of colonialism. The women sway slowly as they climb stairs and slip round corridors. At the top of the stairs, a young flautist and trumpeter join the quiet procession. 


In the twists of a spiral staircase, the audience look on as Bumbray and Leigh glide in their dresses. The tempo picks up, Bumbray taps and hoofs, stamping louder and lifting her skirt to reveal dozens of silver ankle shakers. The independent rhythms of Bumbray's tapping, her singing and the musicians melodies, create the familiar polyrhythm that is central to African forms of dance. 



Rashida Bumbray (left) and Simone Leigh (right) in Aluminium


Aluminium

The sense of pain and weariness is carried heavily in Aluminium. There is no denying that the performance moved much of the audience. Bumbray slips with ease across the boundary between post-slavery performance and the desire to connect with pre-colonial African ancestry. There is a fluidity between past and present, which serves as a stark reminder that the past can repeat itself. 


2016 has been an incredibly bleak year. Marked by a surge in police shootings in the US, the election of a bigoted US president, and a general shift to the right in Western politics. The acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting of teenager Trayvon Martin in 2012, and the countless deaths of African Americans in the years that followed, has informed a great deal of political art in recent years.


Leigh and Bumbray remind us that the historic wounds within African American communities are still open. There is still much healing to be done. 
But the entrenched systematic racism that is holding strong in US and Western politics is jabbing at these open fleshy wounds.


Maya Pindar



With thanks to Tate Modern for providing press images.


Sunday, 20 November 2016

INTERVIEW: Shaun Dillon on reworking We Stand Alone Together for Resolution! 2017

On a wintery Friday evening, I met up with fellow Roehampton alumni Shaun Dillon at London's Southbank to chat about his return to The Place's Resolution! 2017. As well as sharing his experience of reworking We Stand Alone Together, we chatted about his passion for working with young dancers and life in London as a freelance dance artist.

Shaun graduated from University of Roehampton in 2012 and set up his current venture Dillon Dance after a few years of working as a freelance artist. Notably, in 2014, Shaun worked with Matthew Bourne on Lord of The Flies. Shaun's professional works include Rise, That's Not How He Wants It, We Stand Alone Together & Where We Are.

Maya Pindar: What can you tell us about We Stand Alone Together?

Shaun DillonWe Stand Alone Together began as a 3rd year project, which has taken various forms over the years. So, for Resolution! 2017, I decided I wanted to develop it into a more fleshed out work, without the perimeters a 3rd year project has to subscribe to! 

The piece itself comes from a really personal place, stemming from the person I used to be. I wasn't the happiest, wasn't in the best place mentally. So it's interesting to let this work be informed by the person I am now. It's a very emotionally... accessible work. There are themes of frustration, anger, having to make peace with something you're not ready to make peace with. Emotional complexity and being able to connect to the work is really important to me. I want to be moved by [dance] works, to leave the theatre having been through an experience.


Photo credit: Danilo Moroni

MP: Can you sum up where your inspiration comes from for WSAT?

SD: Digging away at the surface of it, the movement comes from the trials I had as a teenager and some of the things I had to deal with. I had a lot of tension and conflict within myself- on the surface there was a constant state of rage. There's an idea of feeling strong, even though you're alone, because your struggle unites you with others in similar situations. I was desperately trying to look for help in areas that I didn't necessarily believe in. So there are themes of almost looking for a higher power. But it's not a religious piece!

MP: What's the rehearsal process like with your dancers?

SD: So it's very different to what I'm used to, which is creating work from scratch. I already have the framework and the atmosphere of the piece. The rehearsal process is very movement heavy. It's important for me as a choreographer to have my dancers really moving through space. I like unison and I like my dancers to move as a pack. So the rehearsal process is a lot of me just putting movement onto the dancers. The original piece was made entirely by myself, then I put that onto an all female cast. I like to watch movement and I feel like that was my salvation- my coming of age.

MP: What challenges have you had to overcome while reworking WSAT?

SD: The music... because the university's music licence was a bit different to The Place's! So having to restructure and explore the work with a new soundscape was really difficult. I had to almost close my ears to what the piece used to sound like. I'm collaborating with a good friend of mine Jenny Whittaker, who is composing the new original score. She's doing an amazing job. Structurally, the new score is different, but tonally it is very similar. The sounds and instruments are very similar. We're working a lot with the sound of bells- it's something that you might associate with ritualistic ceremonies, almost cult-like. 


Photo credit: Danilo Moroni

MP: Can you pick one word that describes how you feel returning to Resolution! 2017?

SD: Progression. There is a real sense of progression from last year to this year, which I suppose is very natural. The support we get, the quality of what's being produced, and hopefully that will be obvious in the final product.

MP: As an emerging choreographer, what is the best piece of advice that you have been given?

SD: Hmm.. That's such a hard question to answer! Ok, 'the first thought is usually the right one'. It's not a direct quote. But it's something that I have mulled over and streamlined over the last few years. It's about going with my gut and trusting that the first idea is usually the right one. Gut instinct. 

MP: Last question! If you could dance with anyone, who would it be?

SD: It's going to sound really cheesy- but my students. It sounds so cliché! But their youthful energy, their sense of exploration and questioning of everything, their disagreement and curiosity. They inspire me, they make me want to improve and stay current; to be a better choreographer. And that is the beauty of teaching for me. So yeah, if I could spend the day dancing with anybody, it would be my students.

Dillon Dance are performing on 4th February at The Place's Resolution! 2017. Interested in Shaun's ideas? You can find out more about Dillon Dance, the amazing cast and other projects here.

Stay tuned for more articles and reviews of We Stand Alone Together in the run up to Resolution! 2017 at The Insanity In Dancing #Res2017


Wednesday, 16 November 2016

A mixed-race dancer's perspective

In the wake of the recent US presidential election, I’m going to do something a little different on here. While not directly dance related, this post is from the perspective of a mixed-race millennial in the arts.

I hope you appreciate my honesty.

After Brexit I started thinking more about identity as someone of dual heritage. Where do we fit in now that the cracks in our complex social/political climate have begun to widen? The idea of belonging to a singular place or culture can be confusing. Speaking to other millennials of dual heritage, the feeling is shared. There is a push and pull relationship between the different cultures, religions and communities that make up our identity. This can either be enormously exciting or frustratingly painful.

As a dancer, I found my Indian heritage a blessing and a misfortune. I struggled to explain my decision to dance, especially to Indian relatives and friends. I rarely met other dancers from similar cultures. Even when I trained at Roehampton, I was surprised at how few were from diverse backgrounds. But most artists welcomed my mixed heritage- there is always room for more diversity in the arts.

My father was born in Kenya to a modest, working class Gujarati family. After moving back to India, the family immigrated to the UK in the 1970s. My mother grew up in Kent- again she grew up modestly as my father did. Both my parents climbed their respective social ladders, met one another, and then yours truly (dance writing expert connoisseur) came along in the 90s. My sister and I were brought up with British values. We were taught tolerance- to be understanding of even the most reactionary attitudes.

Circa 1999, before everything got "real" for my sister and I

So, to me the aftermath of Brexit and the derogatory anti-immigration attitudes that seemed to spill out following the referendum felt enormously regressive. I began to hear stories of my British mixed-race friends being told to go home. We left the EU, so get out.

As Trump's success opens the ruptures in the US, and the gaps in the UK widen, many wonder now where is home? Trump and Brexit was a victory for paranoia and fear, triggered by the failure of capitalist economics. There is huge uncertainty, especially among my generation.

But questioning our identity and our sense of belonging delivers exactly what Trump and Brexiters want. Trump's vision of America, like Farage's vision of Britain, is nothing more than political hype. A sordid fantasy of something completely unattainable.

Luckily for me, being absorbed in the London arts scene, I am surrounded by people and projects, which find new ways of overcoming the events of the past five months. There is a sense of solidarity amongst other young artists in London. So, this is home. The place between the comfort of Kent and the homeliness of Gujarat. It's the strange intangible place where the two cultures overlap and intermesh. I found that place in Britain.

Maya Pindar


Thursday, 10 November 2016

Vincent Dance Theatre's Virgin Territory: an uncompromising look at social media and sexualisation

Fri 4 Nov
The Place
Vincent Dance Theatre - Virgin Territory

Our cool detachment from the "real world" and fixation with the online world is Vincent Dance Theatre's guiding theme through issues of hyper sexualisation and adolescence.

Pink stiletto heels and large round balloons remind us of the voluptuous curves and overt sexualisation we see on our phones and televisions everyday. The dancers parade across an enormous rectangle of plastic grass. We laugh at a young boy who's stuffed his shirt with balloons. He tenses his bulbous muscles and grunts, posing like a bodybuilder. Somehow he crosses the border between childlike playfulness and genuine adult obsession.

Photographer Credit: Bosie Vincent

Artistic Director Charlotte Vincent casts young dancers on the cusp of pubescence, teetering on the knife-edge between childhood and adolescence. With adults and children dancing as equals, it's assumed that Virgin Territory should feel askew.

But instead the pairings are incredibly exciting to watch. Vincent's coupling of adult bodies and young bodies is extraordinary. The four children crash and slam their counterparts with uncompromising commitment.

Photographer Credit: Bosie Vincent

With the dancers constant snapping of selfies and video recording, voyeurism is key in Virgin Territory. Vincent blurs the lines between innocence and perversion. While a young dancer poses in front of her smartphone, dancer Janusz Orlik whispers into a microphone. He watches her, he Likes her, he Follows her, he doesn't want her to be afraid. The audience quietens as his observations continue to grow ever more sinister.

In between truly horrifying recounts of rape, and insights into the computer generated Sweetie, a supposedly 10-year-old Filipina girl, there are moments of charming lightheartedness. Virgin Territory dives into an amusing morris dancing scene. The troupe jig to Cecil Sharp's Country Garden, waving knickers and bras beneath lines of bunting. And then, swinging back to the more chilling content, dancer Robert Clark explores the online "Sweetie" sting, which caught 1000 male predators trying to pay the avatar to perform sexual acts. Wearing an unsettling latex mask, Clark paces in circles, spreading his arms and reaching slowly. The sense of shame is thick enough to slice.

Photographer Credit: Bosie Vincent
We all crave the (albeit empty) connection we find online. But with the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram, it is far easier for innocence to be met with deviance. There is lot to discuss within Virgin Territory, but what resonates the most is the importance of talking openly about these matters with our children and young people. It is only with frank, open discussion that we can tackle such irrefutably important issues.

Maya Pindar

Saturday, 18 June 2016

REVIEW: BA2 Historical Project 2016

Fri 10 Jun
Trinity Laban
BA2 Historical Project
Merce Cunningham Trinity Laban MinEvents 5, 6, 7 & 8 
Yvonne Rainer "Diagonal" from Terrain 
Twyla Tharp The One Hundreds
Wayne McGregor Studio Wayne McGregor's FAR (excerpt)
Matthew Bourne Highland Fling (excerpt - Act 2)

Inviting five pioneering contemporary choreographers to work with Trinity Laban's undergraduate dance students, the BA2 Historical Project highlights the significant contributions made to contemporary dance in the last century by Merce Cunningham, Yvonne Rainer, Twyla Tharp, Wayne McGregor and Matthew Bourne. While the works boast some of the most renowned contemporary dance artists, the choreography also showcases the quality and distinction of Laban's second year dance students.


MinEvents, arranged by Daniel Squire, is (quite literally) a short series of events from Cunningham works including Suite for Five in Space and Time (1956), Summerspace (1958), and Changing Steps (1973). Slipping seamlessly from parallel to turn-out, the dancers execute Cunningham's long clean arm lines and quick shifts of weight with careful precision. Musicians arranged behind the dancers blow breathy notes through instruments and squeeze slowly deflating balloons, reminding us of John Cage's important musical contributions to contemporary dance. Above all else, it is the focus and discipline that is revealed in MinEvents.


Dancers Jordan McGowan and Mayowa Ogunnaike in Studio Wayne McGregor's FAR (photo credit: Lidia Crisafulli)

Charming works, Diagonal and The One Hundreds, choreographed by Yvonne Rainer and Twyla Tharp, showcase the simplicity and 'randomness' of dance improvisation. Rainer's Diagonal sees a group of dancers clad in casual trousers and trainers walking, running and jumping across the four diagonals of the bare stage. Dancers call out movement sequences by corresponding numbers and letters. Thus each performance is different, depending on the order and frequency of the sequences called out. Simple walking is coupled with comical and over-exaggerated striding. The One Hundreds, as described by Tharp is 'a hundred eleven-second segments separated by four seconds between segments, performed by two dancers in unison'. Loose-hipped and relaxed, the dancers slide between cool casualness to bold and cheeky in their short twenty second phrases. As they fall out of each segment, the dancers carry a charming rehearsal-style nonchalance. 

Studio Wayne McGregor's FAR (photo credit: Lidia Crisafulli)

Wayne McGregor's FAR is a profoundly intense exploration of the controversial Age of Enlightenment. Opening with a supple and sensual duet between Jordan McGowan and Mayowa Ogunnaike set in the dark, orange-lit stage, FAR is captivating from the outset. McGowan and Ogunnaike's limbs tangle with every fleshy embellishment. Their bodies roll in voluptuous waves as the score ebbs and flows. Suddenly the tone changes as a mass of dancers enter. Ben Frost's haunting score rumbles, with its pounding electrical percussion. We enter a bleak and shadowy landscape of visceral rolling shoulders and rippling spines. Twitching, fighting and slithering dominates the space. FAR, with its animalistic choreography and harsh tone highlights the versatility of Laban's dancers. 


Matthew Bourne's Highland Fling (photo credit: Lidia Crisafulli)

Finally, Matthew Bourne closed the night on a high with Highland Fling, a 'romantic wee ballet' based on the classic La Sylphide. The short excerpt sees James, played by charismatic dancer Cameron Williams-Everitt, falling in love with an ethereal Sylph, danced by Georgina Turner-Daerden. Dressed in a red kilt and white shirt, Williams-Everitt wanders unknowingly around the stage, stumbling over and bumping into the ghoulish sirens. The stage, dimly lit and scattered with dustbins and a large leather armchair, creates Bourne's dark backdrop of Glasgow's mean streets. James and his beautiful Sylph giggle in excitement as they rush off stage, only to return seconds later, panting and swooning. A clever combination of gorgeous balletic lines and group structures with Bourne's modern and playful twist, makes for a magical ending to the evening.

Maya Pindar





Sunday, 29 May 2016

INTERVIEW: Jana Prager on 'Femme' and Femininity

Last week I met with Jana Prager, Artistic Director of Jana Prager Dance Theatre, to talk about her upcoming work, Femme. Having grown up in Long Island and around New York City, Jana moved to London in 2014 to pursue her MFA in Choreography at University of Roehampton. We chatted about her enjoyment of cooking, baking muffins, and crafting.

Dancers Emily Robinson and Emily Neighbour in rehearsal for Femme

MP: Why did you pick feminity/gender as a discussion point?

JP: I have always been really interested in [feminity] and it's funny because until I was 23 I was in severe denial about my femininity. I had a really warped idea of what feminism was. But I realised, wait a minute, this is everything that I believe in... I've never been a typical woman, I come from a long line of atypical women.. But now I believe, we need to talk about feminism in our art, rather than just dancing around it.

MP: How has the project helped you redefine your views on beauty?

JP: I felt really cheated because my cast happens to be beautiful, they are stunning women! They knew from the beginning that there was going to be a topless section of this dance. In our first rehearsal of that section, I decided OK I am going to stand in solidarity with them and I am going to do this entire rehearsal with them topless. I have massive body image issues, but I was like I need to do this. If I'm going to stand by my choreography and stand by asking my dancers to be vulnerable in front of an audience, I have do this with them. So I walked around a room for three hours with all these other women completely topless, and it was the most empowering moment in my life. We've talked about how much better we feel about ourselves and how we realise that it's just a human body. And it's these bodies that have kept us alive for such a long time. 

MP: As a woman, what personal barriers have you had to overcome?

JP: It's funny, I know there are definitely things in my life, but most of the [barriers] I remember are from when I was a child, because I was such a tom boy. That was like a really big thing for me. I was a huge tom boy.
But I think one of the biggest barriers for me is people not taking me seriously beyond my perceptive sexual value. Living in New York and going into the City frequently, you get catcalled a lot. It's not a barrier like "no you won't get that a job" or "no you won't get into university". But it's really people not taking me seriously. It's constant, obnoxious and verbal.

MP: What methods did you use when choreographing?

JP: It's so funny, I was talking to my dancers, I was like I am so afraid for the day when I need to explain my choreographic process to someone. Because it is so random! A lot of the time honestly the way it works is I will set something and just tell them "this person does that, and that and that, and your cue to exit is when this happens" and I have no idea what it's going to look like. And then I say OK show me that so I know if it sucks or not and then we'll move on. It's almost entirely verbal. 

MP: Did you use any text or similar stimulus? 

JP: Yes, there's this one section that I thought was really paramount, which was about taking up space and how much space women are allowed to occupy- physically, mentally, verbally, theoretically. I love slam poetry, and there's this piece called Shrinking Women by Lily Myers, which we all watched together. The poem states that not only are we supposed to sit with our legs closed on the tube with our bags on our laps, men can sit with their legs spread and no one asks a question. We are told to be quiet when we are young girls, because no one likes a loud girl. Aside from that, even physically we are told how much space our bodies should take up. My waist should take up less space and my breasts are supposed to take up all the space in the world. We really talked about that- about how much space we are allowed and how much space we "deserve".


MP: The female body is a complicated performance space, how did you approach this with your dancers?

JP: For one example, when we started choreographing the topless section, we didn't immediately go topless, but we went bra-less. So if anything felt uncomfortable for the larger chested girls we would alter the choreography. So it was a very interesting negotiation of your own body and it's visibility. For me, while the breasts are sexualised within our society, they're not actually sexual objects. They are secondary sexual characteristics, which puts them in the same category as men's facial hair. There are non-Western countries in Africa for example, where tribes call Western men babies because they are so obsessed with breasts. And they really are these enormous lumps of fat on our chests that are completely human. They are just mammary glands, that's all they are, but I have to hide them.

MP: I suppose you wanted to protect your dancers within the process and performance?

I really wanted to make sure the dancers were stripped of any sexualisation. And that they weren't going to be seen as sexual objects in the piece. I have been really protective- I'm very maternal! I wanted them to know from day one that I was willing to do whatever I could to protect them emotionally in this performance. It's been a really wonderful experience of give and take. My philosophy is that the dancers should accommodate the dance work as much as the dance should accommodate the dancers. Being a performer is such a vulnerable place to be, you know, trusting the choreographer to make something you believe in, to take care of your bodies, and to take care of you emotionally, especially when you're asked to perform topless. 

MP: What will you take away with you from this experience?

JP: I... honestly, I didn't expect it to change my life this much. Ugh, so corny! I usually avoid stuff like that, because I don't want to sound like such a cheeseball! As someone who has had such horrible body image issues, and as someone who is at their heaviest right now (grad school takes over your life), this is the best I have ever felt about myself at this weight. And this is because of the relationship I now have with these women. But I guess professionally, I have learnt how far it gets you when you respect your dancers and hold an ethical work process. 

MP: Where will you take Femme next?

JP: I have every intention of recreating Femme again. It's just where? On who? How? Maybe someone will give me some money to make it?! I am heartbroken to leave these girls! But I would love to bring it back to New York- I am going to be applying with it [to festivals/residencies/etc]. I want nothing more than to work on this piece again. 

 Femme

Femme is showing at University of Roehampton on 1st June. For more information please visit: http://www.janapragerdance.com/#!upcoming-events/c5j2



Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Alicia Kidman returns to Roehampton Dance with new choreographic work

10 May 2016
Roehampton Dance
Footprint Dance Festival
Stepping Stones
Alicia Kidman - Buzz

Roehampton Dance Alumni Alicia Kidman presented her most recent work of contemporary dance at Footprint Dance Festival last week.
Featuring a percussive score by Dominik Told, Kidman constructs a playful comment on the fast paced London lifestyle.

Buzz opens onto a dark stage lit with one bold spotlight. Dancers Sophie Stokes, Emilie Barton, Jennifer Whittaker and Paige Jackson dart through the light. Dressed in plain trouser suits and dark blazers, the women already remind us of the London commute. 

They gradually speed up and begin to murmur a "buzzing" sound.
Interesting moments include an amusing escalator scene. Rapid shuffling movements and long, trailing lines that snake through the space send the dancers into despair. The familiar feeling of frustration at a blocked route or a commuter standing in the way rings true. We all understand their strained expressions.

Buzz is filled with queues, perfect lines and awkward stunted walking. Like our structured public etiquette, the lines and shapes that unfold on stage seem distinctly British. Patiently waiting and too afraid to say anything during your morning journey? The dancers endure one another the same way we quietly endure the man eating a burger at 8am on the Overground to Clapham Junction. Kidman seems to have injected her dancers with a heavy dose of passive aggression and impatience.

Breaking out of these carefully constructed scenes, the dancers spill across the space in a sweeping phrase of unison. As in her previous works, the dancers move and work cohesively. There is an apparent "wholeness" that is just as powerful as the dancers' conviction in their performance.

My only criticism: I wanted more. Would the dancers continue to simply endure one another? How would Kidman's journey end?


Friday, 13 May 2016

REVIEW: Footprint Dance Festival: Stepping Stones

10 May 2016
Roehampton Dance
Footprint Dance Festival
Stepping Stones

Footprint Dance Festival continued on Tuesday night with a mixed variety of evening performances. Highlights included MCDC's PLASIX, Eleni Papazoglou's Hello Frame and Roehampton Alumni Alicia Kidman's Buzz.

Starting the evening, Rhiannon Brace presented Baby, an homage of jewellery box ballerinas, giant teddies and disco dancing to her new born son. Featuring music by Elvis Presley, Frankie Vallie and Sean Paul, Brace explores themes of pregnancy, motherhood and love. The work ended on a high, as a group of Mothers and their young babies join the trio of dancers onstage for a last dance.
Following final year student Daniella Fox's film Feathered Folk, Michaela Cisarikova Dance Company (MCDC) performed the eclectic PLASIX. With luggage security announcements, loud sighing and a large number of bags and suitcases, PLASIX rings true to all London commuters. The dancers arrange themselves as if on a busy train, pushing past one another, before spilling out across the space. Slipping between episodes of sun bathing, tender waltzing and lively rush hour scenes, Cisarikova seamlessly transports us through a series of different locations (or stops rather). An overall exciting and colourful work of contemporary dance.

Stepping Out, presented by Elevate Dance Company, was a light hearted and charming affair. Investigating comfort zones and confidence, the more timid of the duo amused the audience with her "whole-body" pillow costume (essentially lots of pillows strapped to Anderson's head, shoulders, arms, hips and legs- brilliant). Stumbling around the stage, as she tries to imitate her graceful counterpart, the dancer eventually strips herself of the pillows and embraces the unknown.
Eleni Papazoglou's Hello Frame is a simple but highly effective film. Her subjects are asked to cover all four corners of the screen with their bodies at once. She draws upon the concentration and sheer determination of her subjects, who stumble, shout and giggle as they struggle to complete the task. The audience erupt into laughter at the humour and simplicity of Hello Frame.

Finally, Roehampton Alumni Alicia Kidman closed the night with her most recent work, Buzz. Dressed in blazers, skirts and shirts, dancers Sophie Stokes, Paige Jackson, Jennifer Whittaker and Emilie Barton weave in and out of each other, passing through a bright spotlight. As the pace increases, the dancers begin to "buzz", increasing the volume as they collide and dodge one another. Similarly to MCDC's PLASIX, Kidman draws upon the chaotic but structured rules of London life. Strained expressions and allusions to escalators and underground tunnels set against fast percussive music makes for an exciting and amusing piece of dance. My only criticism: I wanted more.
Overall, another fantastic evening at Footprint Dance Festival, which really highlights the talents of young, up and coming dance artists.

Footprint Dance Festival continues at Roehampton Dance until 14th May.


Tuesday, 10 May 2016

REVIEW: Footprint Dance Festival: First Steps

9 May 2016
Footprint Dance Festival
Roehampton Dance
First Steps

Footprint Dance Festival kick started a week of workshops, events and evening performances with an eclectic mix of contemporary dance at First Steps. The bill included works from Roehampton Dance students Ellie Hall, Kali Allen, Dan WalshBrandon Trieu, Mitch Hammond, Harriet Roberts, Emily Robinson and Daniella Fox. Outside artists, Elevate Dance Company, and Sekar Sari also presented interesting films and live performance.

Beginning the evening Ellie Hall presented the self explanatory and amusing In Eight, which plays with timing, simple (but satisfying) movement, repetition and sound. 

Following an uplifting performance of Iridescent by Elevate Dance Company, final year student Dan Walsh presented an incredibly fun and light hearted duet set to Nina Simone's Here Comes the Sun. Bound together at the wrist, the pair scuffle over a pair of sunglasses. Overtly stylised and pantomime-like, Walsh parades about the stage, triumphant in winning back his sunglasses from dancer Abi Smallwood. Here Comes The Sun is cheeky and bold.

Film highlights include Kali Allen's DRACA AND ARACH, which explores the loss of a loved one and the chasm left behind. Daniella Fox's Feathered Folk draws upon natural imagery and repeated motifs. And, Indonesian Artist Sekar Sari investigates identity through the use of a traditional mask- a thoughtful and pensive film.

Other exciting works include Introspectator choreographed by Brandon Trieu of SomaKinetic Movement Collective. Dancer Phoebe Crnich indulges in gorgeous undulations and fast paced floor work. Set to a vaguely French score, Mitch Hammond's tender choreography in The Loneliest Boy in the World also takes advantage of his dancers abilities. Fluttering wrists and highly gestural movement guide Hammond's exploration.

Finally, 3rd year students Harriet Roberts and Emily Robinson's 3 tbsp brought about a dark and ghostly tone. The dancers clutch one another, humming quiety on the dimly lit stage. Their bodies seem to melt together- it's hard to see where one body ends and the other begins. Gentle mime, coupled with moments of precise unison and a shadowy set create Roberts and Robinson's captivating dream like realm.

Footprint Dance Festival continues at Roehampton Dance until 14 May. For more information please visit: www.footprintdancefestival.com


Monday, 9 May 2016

REVIEW: Saju Hari Dance hits the spot with double bill at Rich Mix

Sun 8 May
Rich Mix
Saju Hari Dance - Fly From &  Breaking Points

South Indian choreographer Saju Hari presents an exciting double bill of contemporary dance. Fly From, danced by charismatic Leicester-born dancer Subhash Viman, and Breaking Points, which sees four athletic dancers take on Hari's martial arts training, explore resistance and segregation.

In Fly From, Subhash Viman exudes angst and frustration. He twists his body to the tapping of a drum struck by dripping water. The movement engulfs his whole body, leading him through a section of animal-like contortions into a phrase of windmilling arms and unfurling wrists. It's clear that Viman's gorgeous gestural hands and focused performance are aided by his background in South Asian dance forms. However, Fly From comes to a quick close as Viman undresses in darkness, joined by five silhouette figures projected behind him. 

Breaking Points provided some much needed energy and humour after Hari's exploration of angst and resistance. Four dancers take to the stage, disco dancing, building wooden shelves and competing in humorous 'dance-offs'. Hari injects South Asian flavours into the work using intricate hand gestures and fast paced footwork. An amusing duet between two male dancers, set to a vaguely Middle Eastern score, sees the men copying each other and trying to 'out-do' one another. The men whip through the space with whirling arms and percussive shifts of weight. In particular Belgian born Filipino & Italian dancer, Jason Mabana is an incredibly exciting performer- definitely another talent to watch.

While Breaking Points hits the spot with its athletic dancers and amusing subplots, Fly From left us wanting more. Who are the five silhouette figures? And what do they mean to the work?

At a time when contemporary dance is only just beginning to be more widely available to people from all walks of life, it is refreshing to see South Asian dance and dancers on London's dance platforms. But despite how well the troupe attacked Hari's choreography and dance style, I wonder whether more South Asian dancers could be seen in other productions like Hari's


Saturday, 7 May 2016

REVIEW: Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan mesmerise with Songs of the Wanderers

Fri 6 May 2016
Sadler's Wells
Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan - Songs of the Wanderers

Founder and Artistic Director, Lin Hwai-min brings Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan (CGDT) back to Sadler's Wells with a mesmerising work from his back catalogue. Songs of the Wanderers is a warm landscape of rolling mounds of rice, tall desert branches and hypnotically slow movement. The work has a deeply ritualistic sense, reminiscent of the ancient Buddhist and Hindu traditions of East Asia. 

Downstage right a monk stands in stillness, his hands folded in prayer, as a stream of rice falls upon his head. The grains collect around his ankles and spray across the space. Emerging from the darkness, ten dancers creep through the rice-ridden stage, crouching and clutching onto tall desert branches. The image reminds us of a journey- of wanderers desperately seeking enlightenment. 

The Cloud Gate dancers move with their well-known precision and fluidity, slipping into careful moments of unison, before throwing the rice in curving ribbons. Later, a woman writhes and shakes on the floor, reaching and straining with frustration. The men's muscled backs extend as they pass through inversions into quiet floorwork. 

Hwai-Min constructs gorgeous moments of contrast between the serenity of the lone monk and the unravelling group formations of the other dancers. Four men lay motionless, each flanked by a woman standing at his head. The women hold a desert branch in each hand- the effect is beautiful.

The work comes to a close as five dancers appear from the darkness carrying large bowls of fire. The flames flicker in the darkness, reminding us again of the ancient Buddhist and Hindu rites of East Asia. 

At this point, the monk, still in perfect stillness, is knee deep in the falling grains. Like a human hourglass, he is the embodiment of time and patience.

Songs of the Wanderers continues at Sadler's Wells until Sat 7 May.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

REVIEW: BalletBoyz - Life

Fri 22 April 2016
Sadler's Wells
BalletBoyz - Life
Pontus Lidberg - Rabbit
Javier de Frutos - Fiction

Returning to Sadler's Wells after Young Men, Artist Directors Michael Nunn and Willam Trevitt commission another brilliant double bill. Structured like two ends of the same argument, Rabbit and Fiction are brimming with rabbit imagery and tragicomedy.  

Swedish choreographer, Pontus Lidberg's Rabbit marries surrealism and loneliness, against the cool landscape of gently wafting lengths of cloth and tolling bells. Clad in vaguely 1940s shirts, vests and braces, dancers with furry rabbit heads invade the space, hopping, skipping and cartwheeling. The tone is tender, with sudden outbursts in  Górecki's score, which seem to initiate an exaggerated running motif that rocks back and forth. Later, a couple of rabbits linked hand to ankle, roll by like tumbleweed, as a fragile and inward solo unfolds in front of us. 


We can't escape the niggling feeling that Lidberg's rather nordic choice of imagery in Rabbit is far more significant. As in Watership Down, The Animals of Farthing Wood and Of Mice and Men, Lidberg's rabbits seem to connote persecution and death. Coupled with the images of men draped over the shoulders of rabbits, like parachutes caught in treetops, there are poignant undertones of anguish as the bells toll over Lidberg's stage.

From Lidberg's surreal realm, we move to Fiction, by Venezuelan choreographer Javier de Frutos. Wanting to create a work about the death of a choreographer, de Frutos imagined his own (rather inventive) death, since it 'seems impolite to kill anyone but himself'. Fiction sees a stark change in its stripped set design and the welcome use of comedy.

The dancers move with confused expressions to critic Ismene Brown's words, unfurling a canon of rippling arms and torsos beneath a large ballet barre. A throbbing mass of bodies follows shell-shocked dancer Marc Galvez, as he struggles to come to terms with the fictitious death of his choreographer. De Frutos creates gorgeous kaleidoscopic formations around the ballet barre, as the men slice the air with blade-like arms. He takes full advantage of the BalletBoyz's precision, and risk-taking athleticism.

The curtain comes down on de Frutos' work with Galvez spinning, arms open to Donna Summer's anthem Last Dance. De Frutos is at once dead, resurrected and alive. 

Maya Pindar

Life is at Sadler's Wells until Sunday 24 April.