‘Verve 2012’ Review (BRADFORD, UK)Posted: May 5, 2012
WHAT: Dance (Contemporary)
WHERE: Bradford Alhambra (map)
WHEN: 25th Apr, 12; check their tour schedule for other shows
WHO: Northern School of Contemporary Dance
MY STORY IN A NUTSHELL:
- Contemporary dance is tricky as its intentions are not always clear to the untrained audience.
- Dancers of Verve 2012, the postgraduate performance company of the Northern School of Contemporary Dance, are agile and passionate, but the choreography themselves were a bit of a hit and miss.
- Divided into four opening acts (two I liked, two not so much) and the main pièce de résistance – Akram Khan’s ‘Vertical Road,’ which is part of the Cultural Olympiad programme in Yorkshire.
- ‘Vertical Road’ itself is a powerful piece, with brilliant use of lighting and a beautifully haunting musical score.
MY FULL STORY [first published on digyorkshire.com on 1st May, 12]: The tricky thing about contemporary dance is that their plots are usually a lot more abstract than traditional ones such as, say, The Nutcracker. It’s a lot harder to convey their concrete meaning, and so instead the focus tends to shift from content to form. Which is beautiful, don’t get me wrong, but unfortunately it means that they are not always fully comprehensible to the standard, untrained mortal.
As far as the actual dancing goes, I was very impressed with Verve 2012, the postgraduate performance company of the Northern School of Contemporary Dance. The dancers embody a great sense of youth and maturity that make them wonderful to watch.
The actual performances themselves, though, were a bit of a hit and miss.
The show was composed of five individual parts – four opening acts, and the main pièce de résistance. The first sketch, Let Go by Milan Kozánek, basically had six dancers rolling and writhing on the bare floor, picking up stones and moving with them. Their movements were graceful, but unfortunately it was almost impossible to decipher what they were really doing.
Similarly, the third act, For Dear Life by Jordan Massarella, was meant to suggest that ‘Sometimes sadness is the key to happiness,’ according to the programme. That is an interesting motif, but again the choreography fell short of fully delivering its message.
But it’s not all bad. James Cousins’s Dark in the Afternoon, a duet between two male dancers, was much more powerful. The combination of their sometimes synchronised, sometimes disjointed movements suggests a desperate attempt of (mis)communication. Their strength and elegance was in perfect balance.
My favourite sketch, though, was without a doubt the final act of Part One. Choreographed by Lea Anderson MBE, co-founder of The Cholmondeleys and The Featherstonehaughs dance companies, Dynamo was a blast.
It involves nine wide-eyed, lipsticked ladies in bright 1950s dresses twirling and running and skipping around the stage, taking turns to be puppets and puppeteers. Their mechanical movements resemble a series of stop-motion vintage posters come to life. It sounds bizarre, but it worked. It was fun and jarring at the same time, and definitely a very colourful visual treat.
But it was Part Two that most of the crowd had been waiting for. As part of the Cultural Olympiad programme in Yorkshire, Vertical Road is a piece by acclaimed choreographer Akram Khan designed to explore the relationship between humanity and nature. It was inspired by the Sufi tradition as well as Persian poet and philosopher Rumi.
Light and shadow inter-played brilliantly in this performance. The use of fine powder to create an illusion of smoke gave it a magical effect, which worked well with the eight dancers’ flowing, neutrally coloured costumes. Despite not having a coherent narrative, it managed to remain captivating throughout. The choreography was strongly supported by Nitin Sawhney’s specially commissioned musical score, which was both haunting and compelling.
Although the show began with some uncertainty, it did gain momentum as the evening went on. I must admit that I was still rather perplexed by the whole thing at the end, but the dancers’ focused, agile and passionate energy nonetheless made it well worthwhile.