Choreographers: Hakeem Onibudo and others
Celebrating its 26th year in the business is Hakeem Onibudo’s Impact Dance. Suitably called Chapters, the evening at Sadler’s Wells’ Peacock Theatre is comprised of short pieces in a kind of a greatest hits volume. But in a generous move, Onibudo has also invited other companies to share the stage including heavy weights Far From The Norm and Zoonation. It’s an exciting night of thrilling dance.
It would be wrong to say that any performance stands out when each of the 15 dances brings something new and different to the proceedings. However, it is Impact Dance who we see the most of, and although Onibudo’s choreography is based on hip-hop, there are also many flashes of other influences such as cotemporary and jazz, both of which are reflected in the music that provides the beats for their moves. The youngest dancers, aged between 11 and 19, belong to Impact Dance Youth while the older dancers have their own company, Fully Functioning Individuals (FFI). Some of the alumni also return for the evening.
Among Impact FFI’s contribution is Running (Out of Time), a powerful metaphor for the idea that time is limited, as the dancers twist and jerk, passing round an hour-glass. The theme seems to reappear in Completely, a tender pas de deux between D’Andre Elizah and Nia James. Impact Youth’s Bangs and Works is a bright clean-and-hustle, while Impact Dance reimagines the humorous choreography Onibudo did for one of The Pet Shop Boys tours.
The first half goes by in a flash, as one dance follows another with the minimum of fuss. Bop Jazz Theatre UK’s Daughters of Eve is powerful and feminine while Reading School of Dance’s Pressure, about friendship, uses both jumpstyle and vogue to create an explosive performance. The four dancers from The Urdang ACS dance Home in their socks, their prefect unison extending to the deep breaths they take at the end. Fusion Elite’s Rise Up is full of drama, with the dancers throwing even more dramatic shadows on the screen behind them. Zoonation Youth Company brings some very cheeky disco in their infectious Joy.
The second half could do with some of the bam-bam-bam approach of the first, but it’s easy to share in Onibudo’s enthusiasm as he introduces the performers of the second half. Electrifying the audience is Samuka, who breakdances with and without his crutches, and the fact that he only has one leg doesn’t stop him from creating some breath-taking poses. Botis Seva’s Bullets 4 Freedom features the man himself, and joined by two other dancers, he moves from foot to foot, bringing his knees up high like Bob Marley. Boy Blue Young Artists are precise and inventive with their Til Enda 2.0.
But, ultimately, this is Hakeem Onibudo’s night and his influence on British dance is immeasurable. Actively supporting young people from under-privileged backgrounds, Onibudo is an inspiration. One thing is for sure. His book isn’t finished yet; there will be plenty of more chapters to come.
Reviewed on 25 June 2022