19-22 Aug, 1400 (1530) @ Venue 150, EICC
By Danielle Farrow
Athletic is the final part of the Booking Dance season, running now alongside Rock It! The full programme showcases US companies – mostly new to the UK – available for booking, and there are some very strong pieces on offer.
Athletic includes two of Michael Mao’s new works, Lorca Libre – using sung text from Frederico Garcia Lorca – and China Moves (Phase I), both of which have been reviewed here in Booking Dance: Lyrical (where it was noted that China Moves is particularly athletic). Mao has a feel for drama and strong musicality, bringing us passionate and interesting choreography, but this high quality is not always reflected in his dancers‘ technique; however, the Lorca work does include a solo celebratory piece from one dancer able to express the music with feeling, and China Moves allows all the dancers to show what they can do well athletically.
Ballroom Dancing for Tough Guys adds more story scenes to those already seen in Rock It! – also reviewed here – and Lou Brock spoke well of what dance means to him. His quirky sense of humour is reflected in the dances, and his pieces bring elements of Hollywood and Vaudeville to entertaining life. He is beautifully partnered by the classically elegant dancer Heather Gehring, with her long, clear lines and feel for emotion. There are impressive lifts and holds within pieces that also amuse and even move – as Brock points out, the word ‘emotion’ includes ‘motion’ and it is in movement that this Tough Guy feels able to express his feelings.
The pinnacle of technique in partner work, however, comes from Freespace Dance, though it is unclear where the ’awe-inspiring rock’n’roll blitz’ advertised comes in – possibly this was not meant to indicate actual rock’n’roll steps, but rather Freespace’s final piece, Butt Rock. This has been reviewed here in Booking Dance: Rock It! and it is a tribute to rock music that has some wonderfully observed elements. It is fun and, yes, ‘rocky’, and this showing – possibly due to most of the dancers having already performed beforehand – let the energy flow more freely than when previously seen.
The real beauty of this company, though, made up of performers of different shapes and heights, is the way the dancers truly work together. Portrait, an engrossing examination of realistically recognizable relationships, showed just how well they can move together, with a synchronicity often missing in modern dance companies. Their athleticism is most impressive, with exceptionally soft landings, and lifts and jumps that really hide the work involved. The duet, Namaste, also exemplified the rapport between dancers and included fascinating yoga based moves, including head and hand stands. In addition, among all this prowess in technique, there is a welcome feel of connected emotion and dancing from the heart.
Athletic is the strongest of all the Booking Dance shows and definitely has appeal for both dance enthusiasts and ‘lay folk’. It includes story, comedy, passion, romance, brilliant partner work and, of course, athleticism.