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Subtext – The Brewery Theatre, The Tobacco Factory, Bristol

Choreographer (Swerve Dance Theatre Company): Helen Ganberg

Choreographer (Neshima Dance Company): Batel Magen

Reviewer: Holly Spanner


Communication and language is the integral theme in this production. Split into four shorter pieces (two by each company); Subtext explores the various shades, vocabulary and patterns of language, expressing them through unique contemporary dance.

The first, Tall Stories by Swerve Dance Theatre Company, beautifully incorporates the use of 200 books, initially piled up on stage. Both the pile of books and themes in the narrative gradually become deconstructed as the dance goes on, and the dancers even adopt little eccentricities that book lovers have; the pleasure in taking in the smell of an old book, for example. There are a number of costume changes which are seamlessly achieved and add a nice touch to the story as different characters are created by the cast. Tall Stories is cheeky, mischievous and absorbing, which recaptures the magic felt from reading a favourite novel with engaging, lively and funny choreography by Helen Ganberg.

See What You Say by Neshima Dance Company starts with one of the dancers chatting away very rapidly, but not really saying anything. Meanwhile, the inner thoughts of all who have been in this situation are charmingly visualised by the other dancers, almost dreamlike in motion. See What You Say is stronger at the beginning, and has an innovative concept and original music score by Daniela Tourgeman. However, there are segments of this dance with no music, which are a little awkward to watch with the choreography as it stands. Although part of the story, it doesn’t translate as well as the rest of the dance.

Small Talk is the second offering from Swerve and a favourite with the audience. Again they integrate their trademark text, this time in the form of magnetic blackboards with white letters; Small Talk is the most comedic out of the four pieces. With more acting, anagrams a plenty, and simple costumes by Ashleigh McPherson which have the odd letter stitched here and there, Small Talk examines the need of chit chat in our lives, of persevering until one of the threads become a conversation. A wonderfully playful, visually exhilarating dance which never misses a beat, Small Talk also boasts a vibrant original music score by Barry Ganberg. Full of life, it is a delight to watch as the personalities of the characters emerge throughout the progression of the dance.

Closing the show with the second performance from Neshima Dance Company, Beyond Words explores the need to talk, of wanting to be heard, and the extent to which we are. Communicating the ecstasy and pain of expressing yourself when speaking is not an option, it also examines the flip side, of hiding from expressing yourself. Without words, the body must find another way of conveying itself. One of the ways this is visualised is with the outwards jerking of limbs before being reigned in, perhaps as the brain struggles to maintain control over instinct. Often, we see one side of a conversation, confident or cautious, as speech woven throughout the piece allows this company to live up to their name; Neshima comes from the Hebrew for breath. Rhythmic repetition of the phrase “how are you” gives the impression the dancers are one. An expressive and wonderfully unpredictable number to finish the show, Beyond Words is something Neshima Dance Company can be proud of.

Runs until 10th November 2012.

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One comment

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    Is the volume loud? This is the main thing that ruins performances for me if the volume is too loud and I wish reviewers would comment on the volume.