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Company Chameleon: Pictures We Make – The Lowry, Salford

Reviewer: Peter Jacobs


The World Premiere of Pictures We Make, featuring two new pieces of work by Manchester’s favourite dance (and Lowry resident) company Company Chameleon, marks a significant step in their story. Firstly they have expanded from the well-established duo of joint Artistic Directors Anthony Missen and Kevin Edward Turner to a quartet, adding two new dancers in the shape of Gemma Nixon and Elena Thomas. Secondly, one of the new works shown has been created with choreographic duo Nixon Goddard, marking an ambitious new era in their creative intent.

Eden, created by Gemma Nixon and Jonathan Goddard is an exquisite piece of work. Billed as ‘a powerful and poetic exploration of an internal world’, Eden is precise, detailed, intelligent and full of considered, intense tenderness. The choreography takes the close working relationship between Missen and Turner and the distinctive choreographic language they have developed between them, flawlessly adds the two new performers and creates a work that is powerful, meditative, and looks exactly like Company Chameleon should look, while taking them to a satisfying new level. This sense of seeing something beautiful and new and full of quiet confidence and optimism is heightened by an atmospheric and finely textured soundtrack featuring new original music by John Matthias and Andrew Prior, and the show is made intensely beautiful by the imaginative and sophisticated lighting design of Yaron Abfulafia, which plays with every colour of darkness from dusty greys to smoky amber, contrasted with precisely targeted pools and lines of illumination. Fabrice Serafino’s simple costumes create an unfussy sense of elegant normality and timelessness.

Pictures We Make, Missen and Turner’s own new work was set a high standard to match. This piece draws narratives and themes from their own long history of collaboration and friendship. Pictures was a grittier piece of work than Eden, with an undercurrent of realism and personal narrative – the relationships we make and the social spaces in which we make them. This work is full of ideas and associations – the need to belong, to create relationships, social imperatives, social objectification; isolation, waiting, the struggle to possess and control the things we desire and matter to us; rejection, the inability to connect, the impossibility of letting go. Miguel Marin’s original music generates a listenable air of disturbance and Abfulafia creates another beautiful lighting design full of subtlety and shadow and precision.

Company Chameleon has always been about the relationship between Missen and Turner, which has always shone through in their performances and the unique physically connective language they have developed. This new work succeeds in adding Nixon and Thomas to that characteristic movement vocabulary and embedding them within that relationship. The pair fit perfectly. Individually distinctive, strong, solidly built, they meet and match Missen and Turner move for move to engage in that distinctive physical conversation. Having four dancers opens up the company to a world of new opportunities to create interesting shapes and patterns and relationships. They add grace, light and shade, while matching the boys for strength, taking Chameleon’s characteristically unusual lifts, balances, freezes and interactions and making them seem full of new possibilities.

Pictures We Make is an impressive escalation in the significance of Company Chameleon within the dance landscape. They have always been watchable, distinctive and creative. This new work and inspired expansion of the company and their ability to stage larger scale work is one of the most exciting developments in Manchester dance for years. Company Chameleon have never looked or performed better and though their new work was dark in tone and full of introspective examination, you’re left with a sense of true optimism.

Reviewed 14 February 2013


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