Tag Archives: DanceHouse Ipswich

The Borrowers

reviewed at the Jerwood DanceHouse, Ipswich on 13 December

Mary Norton’s The Borrowers is a story of very small beings who live underneath humans and utilise all those oddments which fall through cracks in floor-boards or under the wainscoting. Not the obvious material for a dance drama, you might think, but Jane Hackett, Estela Merlos and Thomasin Gulgeç prove this wrong.

There is a cast of four, but you really need to add a fifth – Betsy Dadds superb hand-painted animations. Composer Tobias Saunders adds to the atmosphere of a world other than that which we inhabit with a score that combines defined rhythms with matching simple melodic phrases. We first see a subterranean world of pipework and cobwebs, dripped through with water leaks.

There’s the odd spider and mouse to watch before Pod (Gulgeç) rolls onto the stage with n oversized cotton-reel. He’s joined by his wife Homily (Merios) and their adventurous daughter Arrietty (Hannah Mason) who soon leads them from the safety of their underground home into the world outside.

Dadds offers us in fast succession a kitchen a scullery-cum-laundry room and the – to the Borrowers – the bewildering world outside. They have been joined by Spiller (Lewis Cooke) whose rough’n’ready approach is revealed as a façade in his duet with Mason, showing the tomboy maturing into a young woman with feelings.

The lily pond sequence with its improvised stepping-stones leads from the ones in the potting-shed and the garden. By now a foursome, we end on a meadow where thistle-down is followed by a cascade of outsized autumn leaves. It’s imagination-stirring with inventive choreography which never slips into mere display and, at the matinée I saw, held a largely primary-school aged audience spellbound.

Five star rating.

The Borrowers runs at the Jerwood DanceHouse, Ipswich until 17 December and will tour nationally next year. Performance times vary, so check with the theatre’s website www.danceeast.co.uk for availability.

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Filed under Ballet dance & mime, Family & children's shows, Reviews 2017

Getting Dressed
reviewed in Ipswich on 18 March

The stage is dark. Then a bare foot intrudes through a slit in the backing curtain, followed by another at a completely different height. Then yet a third, also apparently disembodied. Hands in a similar fashion follow and finally faces peer out of the gloom at the audience. By now even the most restless child is intrigued.

Suddenly the black floor-cloth and vertical drapes vanish, to reveal a white floor and a translucent backing. Not to mention the three main performers – Ellen Slatkin, Darragh Butterworth and Keir Patrick. heaps of brightly coloured clothes materialise and the dancers strip to their underwear to grab and wear whatever takes their fancy, regardless of sex or shape.

Rosie Heafford’s choreography is athletic, not to say acrobatic at times, with hints of Asian and Middle Eastern dance forms as the costume changes dictate. Hats and headgear of various kinds make their appearance, spilt onto the stage by a quasi-puppeteer figure, as do scarves which can be a stole, a blindfold, a sarong or a veil. The performers turn and stretch, leap and pivot toJames Marples’ and Amir Shoenfeld’s pleasantly atonal score.

Subtle lighting effects by Ben Pacey keep the eye engaged and there is enough humour generated by the sequences of apparently random quick changes to keep a young audience focussed on both the action and Verity Quinn’s plethora of costumes. At just under one hour, this Second Hand Dance production is an ideal length for a show without words and its target audience.

I had the distinct impression that wardrobes would be raided, just as soon as everyone had returned home…

Four star rating.

Getting Dressed continues at the Ipswich Jerwood DanceHouse until 20 March and can also be seen at the Cambridge Junction on 6 April.

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Filed under Ballet dance & mime, Reviews 2017

Pinocchio

(reviewed at the Jerwood DanceHouse, Ipswich on 14 December)

The Jasmin Vardimon Company has taken up a pre-Christmas residency at the DanceHouse for the last leg of its autumn tour. Any dance drama which can hold the attention of a schools audience for a full 90 minutes without an interval has discovered a magic formula.

In Vardimon’s case this is a clever mix of minimal spoken narration, sthletic dance movements, circus skills and a subtle dose of the surreal in the staging. Disney this is not. Rather it takes the original 19th century Italian story of the puppet-carver who, Frankenstein-like, makes a humanoid marionette that then leads a life of its owen.

We see the making process in shadow-play, then a fairy gives the gift of a heart (and so life), but Pinocchio has to learn that existence has responsibilities as well as adventure. We meet also the predatory Cat and Fox, a bunch of playground bullies who have perfected the art of exclusion from their group and a ringmaster whose smile and gentle encouragements quickly turn vicious, even sadistic.

All this is achieved with the aid of designers Guy Bar-Amotz, Chajine Yavroyan, Abigail Hammond and Jesse Collett in a seamless collaboration with Vardimon. Performers are Maria Doulgeri, Emma Farnell-Watson, Estéban Lecoq, David Lloyd, Aoi Nakamura, Uros Petronijevic, Stefania Sotiropoulou and Alexandros Stavropoulos.

The soundscape is an ecletic one, balancing the visual elements – it’s not just the individual performers and set pieces who take to the air from time to time. The donkey masks are noteworthy, as are the linked bare forearms for Pinocchio’s lying nose and the skein of apparently cut-out dolls, such as one sees in illustrations of Victorian mantelpiece Christmas decorations.

Pinocchio runs at the Jerwood DanceHouse, Ipswich until 18 December. Check the theatre’s website (danceeast.co.uk) for performance times.

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Filed under Ballet & dance, Family & children's shows, Reviews 2016

Notturnino|Set and Reset/Reset

(reviewed at the Jerwood DanceHouse, Iswich on 30 September)

Anything you can do… That is surely the motto of the Candoco Dance Company which opened the autumn DanceEast season in Ipswich. Notturnino is an affectionate glimpse into the world of opera singers in their twilight world (think Harwood’s Quartet) encapsulated in snatches of Verdi and Puccini, especially La forza del destino and Tosca.

Choreographer Thomas Hauert took the 1984 documenary film Tosca’s Kiss as his starting point; we hear verbal as well as musical excerpts from its soundtrack, clarified for an English-speaking audience by screened subtitles. The six dancers, four of whom are physically impaired, swoop across the stage in leaps, lunges and variations on the classical attitude, emphasised by quick-change theatrical costumes by Natasa Stamatari, all vaguely 18th century in inspiration.

Shortend arms, a wheel chair and, notably, two crutches for a one-legged performer prove that disability is no barrier to virtuosity. That single leg and what almost seemed sometimes like four arms emerged from the groupings with star quality. Hauert makes no concessions in either the ensemble or solo sections to his dancers; they return the confidence full measure.

Trisha brown choreographed Set and Reset in 1983; this has been redirected by Abigail Yager as Set and Reset/Reset earlier this year. The dancers wear Celeste Dandeker-Arnold’s flowing and diaphonous grey dresses and trousers as they singly, in pairs and in larger groupings lunge, leap and spin across the stage to Laurie Anderson’s tintabulation-heavy score, suggesting a sequence of human dramas underpinning the abstraction of the moves which we are watching.

The performers are Megan Armishaw, Joel Brown, Tanja Erhart, Adam Gain, Jason Mabana and Laura Patay. Candoco tour both regionally and internationally so, if you happen to be in a place where this double-bill is being performed, take advantage of the opportunity and see it. You don’t have to make mental concessions – the work sets its own high standard – just as any other modern dance company. Rather, it’s up to the audience’s response to match that of the performers.

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Filed under Ballet & dance, Reviews 2016