There is nothing quite like sitting in a theatre, not knowing what is about to be shown: one might liken this to opening presents — some are bright and sparkly, some are a bit odd and others might as well be thrown in the bin. Attending a theatrical showcase such as Cloud Dance Sundays is just this – you never know what you'll get, so you might as well sit back and enjoy, particularly when the roster of choreographers boasts such impressive CVs.
It must be mentioned first that the Lion and Unicorn pub is so quaintly situated off the main thoroughfare, you could be sitting in a mate’s countryside garden. But once you wind your way up the tiny staircase to the theatre, the tea and crumpets are long forgotten. The first dance segment called ‘Pull Through, Flick’ begins with three women articulating in geometric shapes to dark, at times droning, electronic music. Flashbacks of Riccardo Buscarini’s unnerving ‘Athletes’ from last month’s Place Prize come to mind, but in this piece, choreographer Rachel Burn uses a sheer outer layer of clothing over each performer to represent grief and one’s journey through that process. There are some beautiful, if not disparate movement sequences, implying Burn’s focus is more on dance as an artwork rather than as a narrative. This is not a bad thing, but it felt somehow more ambitious than perhaps Burn was ready for.
The next segment jolts to a war-zone setting where a soldier prepares for one last battle in Afghanistan. The use of voice-over, sound effects and fluid, all-encompassing body movements entrench the audience in the final moments of his life. Both emotive and exhausting, John Ross’ ‘Man Down’ is modern dance in its best form — not surprising as Ross was recently nominated for Best Choreographer Award by What’s On Stage.
Tom Jackson Greaves’ anticipated ‘Vanity Fowl’ completes the showcase, bringing razzmatazz, and even high quality film-work, to the table. Already performed at Sadler’s Wells last year, this performance intercuts between video that helps provide background to a young dancer who faces insecurities with his friends and colleagues, and an on-stage performance that presents his more confident and care-free side. It is fun, often hilarious and full of energy – this also in reference to the slick, sequin jacket he wears, almost a character in itself. Greaves is no stranger to dance audiences, having been named runner-up to Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures Choreography Award.
So it’s a mixed bag – one that collaborators Cloud Dance Festival and Giant Olive should be proud of. Putting on a strong line-up of emerging dance performances is not easy – yet the first of Cloud Dance Sundays manages to pull it off, producing an eclectic, solid show.
Looking forward to the next one on Sunday 14 July, also at the Lion & Unicorn. Further performances to be announced for July, in conjunction with the Cloud Dance Festival. Tickets are £15/£12 concessions, and can be purchased online or at the door (but get there early as it does sell out).