ContemporaryDanceNorth East & YorkshireReview

McNicol Ballet Collective: Awakenings – Hull New Theatre

Reviewer: Christopher Holmes

Artistic Director & Choreographer: Andrew McNicol

McNicol Ballet Collective present a program of bold and powerful contemporary dance pieces which aim to push the boundaries of Ballet in order to inspire and excite.

Creating some pleasing patterns and formations, as one would expect from dance, the company showcase a series of five contemporary works which focus on connectivity and the human psyche.  After what has been a rather difficult year for us all the sheer connection contact and fluid magnetism from the dancers and indeed the choreography is a real breath of fresh air. It is clear the company (who work collaboratively) care about what they do and the small, but appreciative audience seemed to relish in the work.

There are no fancy sets here, no elaborate costumes or scene changes. This is a no-frills approach that allows the dance and stories to speak for themselves.

In order to critique the piece(s) one must break down the works individually.

Curtain Raiser

A sea of red and orange costumes worn by a large troupe of young, local dancers fill the stage. Controlled and disciplined this subtle and intricate piece has the dancers at its heart. Part workshop, part pedagogical exercise, they dance with fluidity. Using many forms of contemporary dance technique and convention (canon, stillness, contraction, release etc.) every move and every line is both intricate and necessary right up until the last beat. The passion of these youngsters, clearly instilled in them by their choreographer, is inspiring and the audience root for them as they demonstrate their talents on the grand proscenium of The New.

In Ecstasy

Martha Graham once said “dance should look effortless” and there is such attention to detail here. The piece opens with a male soloist; topless and strong. He commands such attention in the vast black box and dances with polish and flair. As the other players make their entrance the mood shifts somewhat as they drape and lift, rise and fall and with much expression. Choreographically the interesting use of shape and form shows real skill and the dancers weave and connect with each other; strong and definite. McNicol demonstrates his skills as an artist and his dancers are giving him exactly what he wants. Clearly inspired by the works of both Cunningham and Graham this is contemporary dance in its purist form and the dancers are drilled like a well-oiled machine.

Of Silence

Closing the first half of the program this rich and intimate sequence is as creative as it is engaging. Pushing the boundaries of movement and dynamics from tradition to transition this creative and innovative piece feels beautifully free. The dance, and its soundtrack, washes over then audience as the dancers’ bodies concave and convex using simple but effective breathing and gesturing. They flow mechanically through every bar; each twist and turn showing real commitment to the art form. Militarily precise but with passion and commitment this piece on freedom and expression is exactly the kind of creativity we need right now. Contraction and release, suspense and pause, stillness and gesture are all used to good effect and it is clear that the distorted and haunting soundtrack has really helped to inspire the piece.

Bates Beats

The second half opens with work on the exploration of the human body. Bates Beats sees male dancers clad in PVC pants, the ladies wearing blue velvet. They parade the space with gesture and gusto. The black tabs from the wings have disappeared and the now visible side lighting is used to good effect creating a vast space of an almost stripped back rehearsal room or an abandoned movie set. Set to the funky house beats of Mason Bates the movement here is both strong and precise, stellar and polished. Perhaps if one were to nit-pick one could ask – was this simply dance for dance sake or was there a story happening here?

Firebird Reimagined

Paying homage to the 50th anniversary of Travinsky’s death the company present Firebird Reimagined. McNicol clearly loves this composer and appreciates what his music has done for the contemporary art form. A real statement is made here – a modern take on classical dance, bringing it into the 21st century. Firebird is essentially about letting go. It is much freer than the other pieces in the program but there is also a sense of connection between the dancers. It shows a certain vulnerability which, in contrast, is extremely powerful.

It’s not often one gets to see a contemporary dance company showcasing their work on a Sunday matinee in Hull but this experimental series of new work was well received and long may it continue

Reviewed on 21st November 2021

The Reviews Hub Score

Expertly Experimental

The Reviews Hub - Yorkshire & North East

The Yorkshire & North East team is under the editorship of Mark Clegg. 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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