Reviewer: Peter Jacobs
Turn 2017 – a night of new northern dance – is Manchester’s grassroots microfestival of local dance artists and dance makers showing excerpts and works in progress, presented by Word of Warning, Contact, Dance Manchester and Manchester Dance Consortium. Turn returns for its ninth year with a slightly different format in that all the dance work is concentrated into one evening of performance and Saturday is now dedicated to workshops and feedback sessions for the artists and collaborators, ending with a semi-public Mixed Methods dance drop.
The evening takes place across three of Contact’s performance spaces, with the audience splitting twice between the smaller venues so everyone gets to see all twelve works, if not in the same order.
Opening in Space 1, is Origami, presented by Kapow Dance, performed by Eithne Kane, choreographed by Kane and Beth Powlesland . Origami explores the myriad ways the body moves, as if discovering this movement for the first time. Kane is an engaging performer and the precise and detailed choreography is a demonstration of skill but the piece struggles to escape the boundaries of its modest theme.
Next is Peter Groom Dance Theatre’s MADRE, which has evolved from an exploration into working solo into a very composed series of scenes on themes of blood ties, lament and saying goodbye. Peter Groom is an elegant and composed mover unafraid to allow time to navigate meaning. Delivered with tremendous poise and quiet intensity, it wanders the boundary between dance and performance art intriguingly, in red stilettos. Somehow there are still insufficient clues to reveal its intentions.
At this point the audience splits between Space 2 – the black box studio – and Space 5 – the foyer stage. We go to Space 5 where we are offered one performance and three dance films. Meraki Collective’s Only Speak When Spoken To playfully toys with social behaviour and rules, and politeness. This piece is driven by the effusive and likeable performances of Laura and Emmy but does have some clever ideas packed into its short duration.
The first of the three films is a series of short experiments by Jo Cork – The Intersection Series. This is an exploration of how dance is presented on film and explores different editing and film techniques really successfully. The visual linkages between the five films, Cork’s intriguing movement and the powerful electronic soundtrack provided by Bartosz Szafranski make a satisfying and intriguing whole.
The film that follows – The Visitor by Born + Bred Dance Theatre – takes very different approach. Exploring ideas of loneliness and memory, dancer Olivia Peers, ably assisted by her grandmother Hilda, has made a short but effective film with a clear and poignant message.
The physical connections between the two are cleverly made but the choreography itself seems somehow constrained by space and frame. The third film is Film with Hope by Grace Surman and Clare Dearnley, which tenderly switches the roles of parent and child. Somehow for all the quality of the filmmaking and the appeal of both performers, this film overextends its idea and fails to deliver much in the way of interesting dance content, moving steadily from wryly amusing to annoyingly arch.
Back in Space 1, Manchester dance’s most welcome Italian invasion: Matrafisc Dance present Periodo Blu, about two people, one stuck in the past, the other gazing to the future, with a literal nod to losing your head. Periodo Blu is a well-constructed piece of semi-narrative dance solidly underpinned by the performances of dancer-choreographers Antonello Apicella and the always haunting presence of Ina Colizza. They move wonderfully together and have allowed space for both to show their strengths in solo narratives.
This piece feels like a step-up in range and quality for the evening. This increase in momentum continues with What’s mine is yours? Coalesce Dance present a demonstration of female unity and strength (and where that can go wrong). Performances and choreography by Anna Papatheodorou and Fern Maia are strong and this a is a perfectly arresting piece of quietly impressive dance that conveys its message through movement alone.
Less subtle in its conveying of messages – with sound clips of Thatcher (chilling), Trump (creepy) and May (chilling) – is INFAMY from The inFamous Five. This collective of five strong and beautiful dancers from around the globe offer what is described as a ‘structured improv’ in the wake of Trump and Brexit. There is some clunkiness in the transitions between scenes but INFAMY is dynamic and ambitious, complex in its design and movement, powerfully performed and tremendously exciting.
The improv is really well-structured because this has the makings of a fantastic piece of dance theatre. Costume, performances and sound and lighting design indicate some serious firepower concealed within this inFamous Five.
Finally, Space 2 for SAISERIT by Giorgio de Carolis, an experienced dancer now working in Manchester. This piece is a painstakingly precise and well-controlled solo about the ignorance of reality, the inability to see another person’s perspective. De Carolis delivers almost the entire piece with his back to the audience but it has real direction and focus as he leads us carefully through exquisitely-modulated movement phrases, drawing the audience in to his finely-structured world.
And last, a solo from one of the inFamous Five. A powerhouse performance from Ane Iselin Brogeland. An extract from a full length solo, The Album of Love explores the emotional states of being in a relationship. Built from improvisation and cleverly locked with interestingly well-chosen pieces of music, each song is a different emotional state. Brogeland is an electrifying performer: fearless and physically and emotionally expressive: energy pours from body and face, especially her eyes, which seem to reflect brightly off every member of the audience. She has the power to create laughter, fear and emotional heartbreak. She pours everything into this excerpt: the complete piece promises to be remarkable.
Turn 2017 had a steady momentum: it grew in pace and stature through the evening. But that is partly down to the 50:50 audience split: the journey could have ended in a different place. But the work seen remains the same: only the necessary curation is different.
Turn continues to give a much-needed and essential glimpse into the depth of work, talent and energy within the region. It is Manchester’s significant dance showcase in a city that still doesn’t value and recognise dance as it could and should.
Reviewed on 28 April 2017 | Image: Contributed