Oral poetry is having a moment. Young people are using the medium, a cross between rap and declamation, to articulate their thoughts and document their lives; and their audiences are becoming wider and more appreciative all the time.
So, it’s no surprise that one of the most engaging sections of this mongrel evening was the poetry event care of Vanessa Kisuule. A lively, funny, articulate young woman, Kisuule, the British-born daughter of Ugandan immigrants, told us about her life in blank verse; her rules for living; her outings to clubs with her female friends; and most touchingly, the conversation she would have with her ‘bad ass’ grandmother back in Uganda, it only they could speak each other’s language.
Quite how this fits in with dance is not clear; but no matter: Kisuule is irrepressible and irresistible, and a good time was had by all.
Equally engaging, and certainly closer to dance, is Charles Linehan’s The Shadow Dance Project, a truly mesmerising black and white film, shown on a giant screen in the Hall’s Mayor’s Parlour.
Shot from the aerial viewpoint of a drone under the opposing lights of morning or late afternoon sunshine, it shows the elongated shadows of people and objects in a variety of settings, moving slowly and creating dreamy patterns. Unwittingly dancing, in fact. This film I could happily have watched over and over.
Which is something I couldn’t say of Lisbeth Gruwez Dances Bob Dylan, brought to us by the Belgian outfit Voetvolk. In the corner of a plain stage stands an old-fashioned record deck, behind which musician/composer Maarten Van Cauwenberghe plays Bob Dylan songs on seriously scratchy vinyl. Dancer Lisbeth Gruwez, in black pants and loose white top, her brow covered in dense bangs, dances.
Sort of. Some of her dances are no more than swaying from leg to leg, with jerky movements of arms and torso. At one point she swings her head backwards and forwards so vigorously you fear for her neck vertebrae; one song consists entirely of her swirling around, arms widespread, head at an angle, like a whirling dervish. Her prancing to Dylan’s One More Cup of Coffee is the kind of thing you might do in the privacy of your own living room, if you were feeling particularly frisky and were sure nobody was watching… though, admittedly, you wouldn’t look as good…
Only the final sequence, in which she dances in slow motion while lying on the floor, lit by a ghostly spotlight operated by her partner, achieves that kind of originality and hold-your-breath beauty you expect from a performance.
And so on to the first part of the evening and Julie Cunningham and Company’s Rays, Sparks, Beating Glows. Julie Cunningham is an outstanding contemporary dancer, for many years a member of Merce Cunningham’s troupe. She’s now exploring her newfound freedom to enquire into questions that interest her as a choreographer.
This latest work, she tells us in the programme, is the result of her foray into the feminist philosophy of the French writer Monique Wittig. Including an actress, Anna Martine Freeman, and the spoken word as the only sound (no music), it explores primarily images and designations of lesbianism.
It is, not to put too fine a point on it, a mess of half-baked ideas, simple provocation and not much dancing. Which is a pity, because Julie Cunningham has the talent to do so much better.
On plus side, all this is taking place in various rooms of the 19th century Shoreditch Town Hall, a beautifully restored building with high ceilings, elegant staircases and delicately ornate walls; a great setting for performances of all kinds.
Shoreditch Takeover is part of London’s Dance Umbrella Festival 2017 http://www.danceumbrella.co.uk
|What||DU17 Shoreditch Take Over Review|
|Where||Shoreditch Town Hall, 380 Old Street, EC1V 9LT | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Old Street (underground)|
26 Oct 17 – 28 Oct 17, 19:30 Dur.: 2 hours and 20 minutes approx.
|Website||Click here to book via Shoreditch Town Hall|