From the top with a lump or two

21 May

As the dancers wrapped themselves around each other, the disembodied voice of the choreographer demanded, ‘…more organic-y…like a squirrel…like a cobra…with a whip at the end…’

From the Top, choreographed by Victor Fung and the first dance of an evening jointly curated by Swindon Dance and Swindon Spring Festival, was a hoot. A hilarious insight into the sometimes deliciously unfathomable world of contemporary dance, it began as I expected – two male dancers, Michael Barnes and Jack Sergison, moving in beautiful if mysterious ways – until, it emerged, the pair were actually in a ‘rehearsal’, devising the performance to the ever exacting demands of Victor, their director, for such things as ‘neutral hips’ and an ‘echo’. As the voice wanted more and more, the thoughts running through the (mostly) implacable performers were projected in words onto the screen behind them.

“…thread yourself under his arm and linger there…” said Victor. “…his armpit is not somewhere I want to chill,” came the Michael’s projected reply.

From the Top, photo © Fernando Bagué

I wouldn’t have expected the dancers to be capable of such comic timing, even as Jack awkwardly clambered round Michael’s body, looking up expectantly for approval, before taking it ‘from the top’ and delivering a beautifully moved sequence.

This is unfounded, of course. Why wouldn’t dancers – even serious contemporary dancers – be capable of comedy? This is what, after all, Pocket Fluff Productions achieved in One Lump or Two.

One Lump or Two, photo © Fernando Bagué

It was just an ordinary day for our couple. She woke first, then had all kinds of trouble getting him into the land of the living. With the help of coffee she eventually roused him and, for a while, they staved away boredom by playing tricks and mucking around with red bowler hats. But he upset her by hogging the headgear, and had to win her round with wine. Our couple ended up back in bed but, before it turned X-rated, the booze had its soporific way with her instead.

One Lump or Two, photo © Fernando Bagué

It was a lovely story, full of acrobatic dance movement and the crowd-pleasing numbers you’d expect from a piece of street-style theatre – one standing on the hands of the other, hand-stands on the bed/table, juggling of coffee cups and hats; balletic movements in abundance.

One Lump or Two, photo © Fernando Bagué

Another dance piece, Ding, began jerkily enough, Thomasin Gulgec vibrating around the floor, until the Brazilian beat kicked in and Estella Merlos joined him. No longer on his own, he had a partner to play with, their movements rhythmic and joyful. Both this and From the Top is just what I expected from Swindon Dance – top notch performance and immensely enjoyable.

Ding, photo © Fernando Bagué

The final tale, Karla’s Story, was about a teenager who loses most of her hearing. Bafana Matea directed a group of young dancers and three musicians (including himself) with energy and vigour, their zest for life punctuated by moments of agony as Karla’s hearing cuts out.

Carla's Story, photo © Fernando Bagué

With the support of her friends, she kept on with her life and her dancing, not disabled by her loss of a sense. There is something special about a show that, instead of focusing on the usual adolescent themes of bullying, despondency and tribalism, celebrated the caring friendships of school teenagers.

Matt Holland, Bafana Matea, and Mike Fergie from Suitcase Sounds, photo © Fernando Bagué
Matt Holland (Festival Director), Bafana Matea, and Mike Fergie from Suitcase Sounds

This was a wonderful showcase for the evolution of Swindon Festival of Literature into Swindon Spring Festival of the arts.

BSL interpreter, Kat Wright, photo © Fernando Bagué
Kat Wright BSL interpreted the speech

Dance, Acrobatics and Circus Theatre – an evening of performances that tell stories was staged at Swindon Dance, as part of Swindon Spring Festival, 18th May 2019, and was BSL interpreted by Kat Wright.

Words by Louisa Davison. Photos © Fernando Bagué

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