DanceNorth East & YorkshireReview

Encounters Festival – Yorkshire Dance, Leeds

Reviewer: Jane Austwick

Wieke Eringa, Artistic Director of Yorkshire Dance, sums up the aims and intentions of the Encounters Festival:

Yorkshire Dance is building a community of activists – from all walks of life – around performances addressing some of the big questions of our age. Encounters has brought together inspiring dance artists with a diverse crowd to share food, conversation, participation and performance in Leeds. We’re welcoming everyone – those who don’t normally come to performances as well as those who frequently do. We believe dance can make the world a better place. We know it can create deep connections between different sorts of people drawn together by seeing, and talking about, the kinds of works you’ll experience at Encounters.

Robbie Synge, Lucy Boyes and Company present Ensemble, opening with five dancers (aged from 32 to 74) crouching down together and placed closely, like pieces of a jigsaw. The performance begins and ends this way, providing structure and frame. The dancers stand up slowly, with movement of their fingers, feet, and body bringing shapes, as the dancers came up into the contemporary world of contract and release. Although the dancing is extremely energetic, it is controlled and in fact, the result of a five-year project by the dancers themselves. Yet, the piece seems, in many places, improvised.

The introduction of a rope leaves one wondering if the dancers might trip up over it, which they do. Similarly, the introduction of two glasses of water is mystifying, as they end up over the dance floor, and, on the night of this review, had to be mopped up with towels. Perhaps the only person, who is able to get away with this, is the late and much-missed DV8 co-founder, Nigel Charnock.

The dancers move through a variety of physical challenges, needing support and trust from each other. There are many transitions from different styles, tests, and moves. This is a contemporary dance performance, a gathering and series of interactions between five performers. Robbie Synge explains that the aim is:

…to reflect variety in learning styles and physical ambition, supporting each other and uniting with a joyous group spirit.

And this, indeed, it does with aplomb.

H2 DanceStrangers & Others is a psychological piece which relies on audience interaction. We become the performers and are given earphones before going to a large empty room with green mist in the air. It is an adult version of Simple Simon Said where the participants do what they are told, but only if it feels comfortable. The partakers are asked to interact with each other, doing things from long spells of eye contact, smelling each other’s neck and even touching each other’s bums. We are asked to go into groups or lines, supported by prejudices and opinions and point at people we think resembles our prejudices or stereotyping.

On the night of this review, during the after-talk drinks, it became apparent, that nobody seemed to know where they actually fitted in just by physicality alone. While an experiment in judging others, it ultimately became an experiment in judging ourselves.

Reviewed on 9 November 2018 | Image: Sara Teresa

Review Overview

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Energetic & controlled

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The Southwest 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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  1. Full disclosure: I work at Yorkshire Dance. I absolutely LOVED Ensemble. Completely beautiful, mesmerising, moving piece of dance. The trips and spills, I’m sure, were integral to the emotional impact of the work. If it had all looked perfectly physically accomplished, it would have been somehow less human, I think. Sounds like you enjoyed it, though, which is great!

  2. I was there on the friday and Saturday evening so saw both H2’s piece and Robbie’s ensemble. I don’t find it easy to write about dance but you have managed to convey much of the intent behind the pieces. The glasses of water begin as a test balance, control and then deliberately thrown as the spillages occur more frequently, until tossing the glasses aside in joyous release and the dancer is left sopping wet but completely happy – my point is I think all that is intentional.

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