Elegance and eccentricity from Cambridge's contemporary dancers

26 January 2008

Perspectives, ADC Theatre, 22nd-26th January, 19:45

Reviewer Bethany Sims

4 Stars

The Cambridge dance scene is an industrious, underground community, jumping, jiving, pumping and pirouetting behind the closed doors of rehearsal rooms and studios for most of the year. This week however, Cambridge contemporary dancers are out in force at the ADC for their annual show. The packed and various production, consisting of twenty-three dance acts by sixteen different choreographers, made for an exceedingly eclectic mix of shapes and styles of dance. It included everything from belly-dancing to beatboxing, bringing with it an impressive range of sounds and silhouettes.

‘My Eyes’, a story about Paris 1982, false teeth, ET, mass unemployment and He-man, is particularly outstanding, combining lyrical movement with beatbox and soulful vocals. Equally, ‘When Push Comes to Shove’ demonstrates the versatility of Netta Shamir, whose choreography of a contemporary pas de deux is as tidy and as seamlessly imaginative as in her self-performed solo, regardless of decisions to defiantly poke and prod, and tug at clothes, resulting in one dancer pulling the other’s flies down!

What made the dancing mesmerizing was not only the flair and finesse which with much, even most of it, was performed, but the unfixed facial expressions of the dancers. Those in the ‘Cambridge Lindy Hoppers’ Swing Group looked not only confident but as if they were enjoying themselves unreservedly – no glazed smiles here. Even many of the less light-hearted pieces were danced with the freedom and conviction to suggest that the dance was something we were privileged to watch, which commanded our undivided attention but would go on without us. Merrilees Harris is an example of a dancer who looks as if she dances because it is the natural and only way she knows how to move.

Perspectives was not so much a coherent dance showcase so much as a collection of dance ideas. They were good ideas but it must be said that the abrupt transitions between styles could be displacing. I was thrown by ‘Time After Time’, a piece based on the overused theme of Alice in Wonderland, sandwiched between two elegant and classical pieces. Similarly the video interludes were disruptive and not well thought out. They went on for embarrassingly long stretches and left solo dancers struggling to hold poses on stage. The theme ‘Perspectives’ invites very diverse interpretations; consequently most dances were original, compelling and unexpected, in spite of the leaps between acts which you would not anticipate seeing side by side.