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The Aftermath – Piece Hall, Halifax

Reviewer: Ron Simpson

Choreographers: Sam Ford, Anna Holmes

The Aftermath is a short (22 minutes) dance theatre presentation that examines the effect of the coronavirus on the young people of Calderdale. Though a prophetic speech in the last two minutes directs the young to take control of the future and the troupe stride off with some sense of purpose, it’s difficult to see something as abstract as dance responding to concrete issues. However, it’s an imaginatively impressionistic approach to agony, hope and youthful energy, with the camera work often reflecting the swirling movement or jerky reactions of the dancers.

The piece is the work of the Piece Hall Trust, Northern Broadsides and Northern Rascals, choreographed by the Rascals’ Sam Ford and Anna Holmes and filmed in the Piece Hall with twenty local young people. Members of the public, some watching, some just passing by, give a sense of authenticity; at times dancers on the fringe of the action seem to have emerged from the crowd.

At the beginning the dancers strike tense attitudes, respond as though struck, the sound-track no more than broken syllables of speech or simple subdued background noises. Jonathon Deering’s music begins as no more than a faint pulse and, though it gains momentum as times, it is always an atmospheric background.

Distance is crucial to the movement. Dancers mime throwing or kicking, react to each other, but always at a distance – when they sit or when they lie like victims of the plague, they are socially distanced. After a while the specific subject surfaces: an official-sounding voice considers the question, “Is there an age demographic?” in relation to coronavirus. Later the matter of blaming the young for spreading the virus emerges before the spoken sounds blur into the general background.

Two expressive professional dancers, Daniel Phong and Soul Roberts, lead the ensemble, but Ford and Holmes cleverly foreground (often very briefly) individual members of the troupe or different groups. Ultimately, though, all are united as a discrete group. The message may not always be totally clear, but the energy and serious commitment of the young dancers always convinces.

Available to watch HERE until the end of December

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