DanceNorth WestReview

Dragons- The Lowry, Salford

Reviewer: David Cunningham

Choreography, direction and design: Eun-Me Ahn

Music: Young-Gyu Jang

Video direction: Taeseok Lee

Publicity for Eun-Me Ahn’s Dragons observes while the creatures are regarded as fearsome in the West, in Asia, they traditionally symbolise lightness, joy and optimism. One assumes; therefore, the dancers are meant to represent these positive emotions rather than depict the mythical creatures. Having said that, one of them definitely has a tail in the opening sequence but then Dragons is a show in which little can be taken for granted.

It is hard to detect an overall narrative in Dragons. There may be a theme of the relationship between humans and machines. In the opening sequence this seems benign- gigantic metallic air conditioner tubes hang like drapes on the walls of the theatre and dancers wear smaller versions as fashion accessories. Later the relationship becomes symbiotic with the tubes encroaching upon and absorbing the dancers. In a final comedic sequence, the tubes are triumphant and twitch around the stage worm-like having conquered their human hosts.

In the main, however, Eun-Me Ahn, who choreographed, directed and designed Dragons sets an exuberant mood of children at play. The second sequence is a delirious hip-hop number with the dancers using the tubes as skipping ropes and dishes as frisbees. In the concluding number, daringly, the dancers are almost immobile, not moving their legs or trunks of their bodies but slapping and clapping an intoxicating rhythm with their hands and arms.

This is not to say the dancers lack discipline. In an extraordinary display of physical control dancers lying on the floor use their legs and feet to raise partners into horizontal and even vertical positions. The company, in the style of contestants in a pageant, even step forward to introduce themselves and describe their training and the pleasure they take from dancing.

The spectacle in Dragons is not restricted to the dancing. A gauze screen over the proscenium arch allows video director Taeseok Lee to create some remarkable 3-D images. Live dancers interact with their visual counterparts on the screen. A waterfall crashes down then forms an archway through which the dancers perform. While some dancers appear to be captured inside bubbles another dancer, in the imperious style one might expect from a dragon, commands the water into patterns.

Dragons is, however, a collection of ideas rather than a cohesive whole and sometimes it feels like the concepts have been included in the hope they will work. Some of the dancers glide around the stage on concealed rollerblades in the manner of Daleks. At one point the house lights come up for no apparent reason. A dance sequence is overshadowed by photographs from the rehearsal appearing onscreen.

Dragons is certainly spectacular, but the grab-bag of ideas results in an oddly hollow production which feels like a triumph of style over substance.

26th and 27th September 2023

Style over substance

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The North West team is under the editorship of John McRoberts. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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