Review: Looking Glass

Image credit: David Swarbrick

As a creative piece, the Cambridge University Dance Society’s interpretation of Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass was imaginative and unpredictable, truly capturing the mystery and confusion of Wonderland.

The dance performance had several positive elements which made the show entertaining. Firstly, it was enjoyable to see a variety of dance types – ballet, contemporary, interpretative – in one performance which complemented one another and kept the audience engaged. The transitions between the various dances were smooth and precise, with the change in music paralleled by a change in mood, cast, and perhaps style of dance. The variety of music – in terms of style, energy, tempo, and mood – aided the performance in diversifying what was presented on stage with regards to dance expression, presenting different emotions and dance techniques.

It was also interesting to trace the importance of colour in the characters’ costumes with blue, red, white, and black tops (most likely) used to portray the different characters and their supporters in the original novel – Alice, the Red Queen, the White Queen (or the March Hare), and the Jabberwock. The effective use of costume enabled progression in the show and helped transitions between dances by adding to the visual and aural change on stage. Also, the dance technique of mirroring was a clever twist on the theme of looking glasses and was the foundation of the best dances in the show. In particular, the solo performances and pair work were the strengths of CUDS’s Looking Glass. Each dancer had their own style and personality which shone through in these moments of individual expression.

Having said that, the overall effect of Looking Glass was hampered by the lack of cohesion and storyline. As an interpretation of a well-known novel, it was disappointing to see a confusion of the narrative. The only clarity portrayed was Alice, who was set on a bed tossing and turning, to portray how vivid and life-like her dreams were – being projected onto the Corpus Playroom stage. However, most of the scenes did not resemble Lewis Carroll’s original and instead embraced improvisation and artistic creativity. Whilst this is not a fault in itself, the title Looking Glass implied a closer replication of Through the Looking Glass – but apart from the colour schemes, there was no other obvious link to Wonderland which one might have expected. Additionally, some of the group dances lacked in energy and precision: the impact a dance had on the audience was greatly impeded when a few dancers missed the change in the rhythm of music or fell behind on the choreography. Although, as expected on opening night, this is a problem which can be resolved through rehearsals before the following shows.

All in all, CUDS’s Looking Glass is an enjoyable interpretation of a childhood favourite – even if the narrative was lost to artistic creativity. The highlight of the performance was the solo dances and pair work, allowing talented individuals to explicitly portray their passion for dance.


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