Reviewer: Peter Jacobs
Turn – presented by Word of Warning, Contact and Dance Manchester – is the eighth annual micro festival of new north west dance, celebrating five years at Contact in 2016. Performed across two evenings, Turn presents a diverse range of new work and work in progress from north west-based dance makers and artists.
Saturday evening, the second of two, showed an ambitious ten pieces of work and one video-based installation across three spaces. Some of the pieces are shown twice due to the capacities of Contact’s Spaces 2 &5 so this review reflects the order they were seen by this reviewer. The team from the venue and Word of Warning neatly organised the audience across different spaces so everyone got the opportunity to catch all the work.
The evening started in the main theatre, Space 1 with Bruise by Ina Colizza and Antonello Apicella, an Italian duo. This bruising but tender duet demonstrated some impressive dance skills and creative choreography in a beautifully-lit performance of isolation, connection, fracture and need that wonderfully combined classicism with contemporary innovation. The pair are a delight to watch, with a precise, focused intensity that shone through the penumbral lighting. The soundtrack added a layer of melodic distortion and crackle that underpinned the narrative well.
Next on the stage came Adam John Roberts with Awaiting Acknowledgement, an expressive exploration of his personal experience with depression and anxiety. This thoughtful piece, with its charming rocking horse and teddy bear companions, evoked a genuine sense of someone struggling to establish solidity and order within their growing maturity: taking charge but not quite letting go. The light was lovely, evoking a slightly surreal sense that this was a place that no longer existed but wouldn’t quite fade. The soundtrack of Barber’s Adagio for Strings was perhaps too emotive and evocative of other things to support the quiet, personal nature of the choreography.
After a significant pause to relight came The Dusk Wood by Sap Dance, a literal exploration of a wood from dusk to night. The lighting change was well worth it as it was simply beautiful, playing on dancer Ellen Jeffery’s costume and creating a real sense of changing time and place. Sound and music was also lovely, but the thinness of the material and the slow linearity of Nigel Stewart’s choreography meant The Dusk Wood delivered what was promised but negotiated a fine line between pretty and interesting.
Into Space 5 for two really fun short pieces. Piece of Cake by Now is a comedic duet full of joyful humour, touching on slapstick set to the delightful vintage Cut Yourself a Little Piece of Cake by The Two Leslies. Witty and charming, this is a piece of modern variety theatre. This worked well with Louise Gibbons’s Miss Baines, choreography by Gary Clarke, that is an evocative, nostalgic, witty look at the lives of ordinary Northern women in the past, through physical theatre. Miss Baines is vividly realised by the slightly terrifying Miss Gibbons and the sense of history and humour is sharp. It feels like an interlude in a longer work about social history.
Back to Space 1 after an interval for the largest company at Turn (in numbers), Brink Dance Company with I carve or doodle and i Inspire, which explores the playful mind and ideas of Leonardo Da Vinci. This is a high-energy piece for a large group and there are some very impressive dancers among the company, but the work somehow lacks ambition and clarity and the expansive group, solo, duo and small-group choreography flits between impressive and ragged. The music choices and movement give little sense of style and theme, apart from some sculptural poses. Somehow it’s trying too hard to impress and be fun and lacks focus.
By contrast, This Really Is Too Much by Gracefool Collective is a well-constructed treasure box of ideas and execution. This dance theatre piece explore the performance of identity, with a specific focus on the contradictory realities of life for women in the modern world. Kate Cox, Sofia Edstrand, Rachel Fullegar and Rebecca Holmberg, who devised and choreographed the piece, including their own and sourced text, are revealed as strikingly distinctive performers in a lighthearted but laugh-out-loud work that is intelligent, creative, fully-realised, multilayered, cleverly soundtracked and completely engrossing. More please.
Next, up to Space 2 for Joseph Reay-Reid’s Moment to Moment, performed by the besuited Danielle May Goodfellow and Thomas Heyes, which examines human relations and the difficulty of connecting even with the people closest. This duet starts with text as the pair rotate in hold then explodes into gloriously energetic and creative physicality as Blur’s Girls &Boys kicks in. This powerful collision of duet and solos perfectly captures the spirit and momentum of the song and Heyes and Goodfellow are powerhouses of fearless and relentless energy and commitment, as focused as the pool of light they perform within. Ten very exciting minutes.
This is followed with the nicely contrasting Loquens in Latrina by Ekpei, McKie + Withycombe-Wharton. This is a nostalgic consideration of how important clubbing can be in your younger lives and how reality collides as you get older but the desire to go out remains, set to a suitably banging soundtrack. This entertaining piece by three older dancers is a joyful celebration of what it means to be young and how that never leaves: a party, and great fun.
The evening winds up back in Space 5 with Shelley Owen’s SpeedDating, which is a series of short dance conversations on social interaction between combinations of four dancers and three live musicians. This piece draws strongly on structured improvisation and is reminiscent of Contact’s long-running dance improv drop-in night Mixed Movement, a nice reminder of the venue’s longstanding commitment to the dance ecology of Manchester.
Turn is an important reminder that the north west is blessed with dance artists and dance makers and educational institutions that support this, but lacks a dedicated dance venue, dance space and the robust institutional infrastructure to support this vibrant and creative art form. This is why Turn and Word of Warning and Dance Manchester are important, and this is why it is good to see it deliver so strongly this year.
Reviewed on 23 April, 2016