ADC Theatre, 7.45pm, until Sat 26th January
In her blog post discussing her ambitions as producer of Enigma, Lolia Etomi, made it clear that she and co-producer Laura Weidinger were determined to exceed the high standards expected of CUCDW's annual show. While I am unable to testify to the quality of previous productions, I cannot praise this passionate duo enough, as well as their production team, their choreographers and, of course, the dancers for what was a magnificent, spellbinding and beautiful display of some of the most talented performers Cambridge has to offer.
One of the most striking things about Enigma, which features local dance groups as well as students, is the variety of pieces on offer: the opening numbers set the precedent by whisking us from the dark, urban world of Hip Hop, choreographed by Ifeyinwa Frederick, to the exotic, fluid and sensual excitement of the Turkish belly dance, led by Leyla Tureli, a local dance teacher. Some of the strongest moments in the show grew out of similar pairings, particularly following the interval, when the graceful, florid Sevillana, a popular traditional flamenco dance choreographed by Mari-Pia Molina, was followed by a dazzlingly accomplished performance by SIN Stars, the junior wing of the breakdancing troupe SIN Cru.
I was not only impressed by the variety of genres and cultures included in Enigma - as well as Hip Hop, belly dancing and flamenco, we were treated to Contemporary, Fusion, traditional Oriental and Indian pieces, Jazz and Ballet among others - but by the range of ages, shapes and sizes of the dancers: from the raw, young talent of the SIN Stars to the maturity and grace of the Sevillanas, petite ballet dancers to wonderfully curvaceous salsa bodies, Enigma was a celebration of the fact that anyone, anywhere can dance, and feel fantastic doing it too.
All this variety might give the impression that the show lacked structural unity and, to an extent, this is true. The title sort of formed a theme that ran through and framed the pieces, put up in lights on a big screen in the opening and closing numbers, but overall I suspect it was just a jumping-off point rather than a rigid base. But why not? I'd certainly rather see a series of spectacular, individual moments than a turgid and forced concept piece. As it was, the unbridled talent and creativity of the pieces carried the show, leaving us with the satisfying feeling that we had witnessed something special, evinced by the audience's enthusiastic response at the end of the night.
I feel that the solo pieces in particular are worthy of praise. Tania Clarke's Contemporary piece, 'Life in Full Motion', inspired by those famous lines of William Henry Davies 'What is this life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare?', was an astonishingly tight and effective statement of the individual's experience of time, while Demelza Hillier's belly dance was one of the more successful Fusion performances, bringing out the independence and strength at the core of the highly physical exotic dance.
The variety available in Enigma means there is something for everyone, and the audience's response shows that this production is, rightly, a real crowd pleaser. Of course the dancers showed the strain on occasion, and once in a while in deep concentration some of them forgot to smile, but this is not the Bolshoi and we can forgive that. The delightful enthusiasm, talent and creativity exhibited by all the acts transcend any minor criticisms. Do not miss this show!