Sunday, May 19, 2013

Natalie Weir's R&J

Expressions Dance Company
The Q
14th May 2013
Reviewed by Samara Purnell

“Wow, that’s a lot of suicide for one night” was the remark on exiting The Q. “But that was even better than I’d hoped”

You know how it happens – crowded dance floor, sea of sweaty bodies part, your eyes lock onto each other, your hands touch, you are engulfed by lust for each other, overcome with passion and obsession, and then, after some third party involvement, a stabbing and a drug overdose the whole thing’s gone to custard? (Typical night at a certain civic nightclub, right?)

Welcome to the first twenty minutes of Natalie Weir’s production of R & J. Three stories, all alike in storyline (as opposed to two household both alike in dignity) comprised this hour-long performance, connected not only thematically, but also by each “Juliet” wearing a red dress and with jazz music commissioned for this work, composed by John Babbage and performed by Topology.

Some elements in this first take on the theme of timelessness of love and loss, set in the “now”, didn't quite gel, despite strong dancing and sexy choreography complete with daring lifts and holds. But in the second piece, every part of the performance came together beautifully, from the moment the lights came up. 

Beautiful, poignant choreography was interpreted with a good balance of modern dance, perfect characterisation by Benjamin Chapman and Elise May, and a feel for its period setting (several centuries ago). This, made all the more powerful by the achingly beautiful and emotive music, created an emotional portrayal of the innocence of love and the beauty in death.

The set design, made up of many different sized lightboxes, was simple (allowing for ease of transportation) and beautiful. The second story in particular made creative use of them, resulting in a really affecting beginning and ending to the piece.

The third story, set in the 1950’s, portrayed a different version of untimely loss. It explores established love through the routine of a young, married couple. Tension and anticipation was built through repetition until, heartbroken and confused, Michelle Barnett begins her solo.

Occasionally, in the first two pieces, a lead in to a lift or other partner work created a noticeable pause. A more distinct nod to the time period, whether through music or choreography would further distinguish the pieces from each other but overall Weir’s choreography was engaging and emotive, with clever lifts and lovely storytelling. Each story’s denouement was keenly anticipated.

The EDC executed the work energetically and thoughtfully, with an obvious emotional investment. All the dancers displayed remarkable physicality and beautiful extension and flexibility was shown by the female dancers throughout.

The universal story of bad timing and irony, lust, romance, first love and life love, R&J was a powerhouse of emotion and interplay. I left feeling somewhat wistful yet thankful for less dramatic relationships…until the next night out in town, right?

 Image by Fiona Cullen