SEE CHANGE

Tue 6th – Sat 10th August 2013

reviews

Georgina Wilson

at 16:44 on 9th Aug 2013

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I didn’t really know precisely what I was going to see when I was bundled around the back of the imposing Church Hill Theatre and through a nifty little side gate, and to be honest I’m still not really sure. 'Change', apparently. Change through time to be precise. The only dialogue in this piece is the overlapping chanting, en masse, of “I was”…, which changes to “I am”…, which changes to “I will (be)”… It’s a shame the English language cases a grammatical dilemma about whether to use two words or three at this point, but at least the idea comes across.

The dancers/actors/mime artists change their costumes too, apparently for no other reason than to visually liven things up. The boys (grey T-shirts, black trousers) don smart shirts, and the girls (black dresses) peel off their funky ankle socks one by one. I’m not really sure why, and it can be hard to make this less-than-sexy undressing seem relevant in a dance. Ah but it’s not dance, you see, it’s an 'original work'. So maybe that makes it all okay.

One thing that is genuinely impressive, especially given that 'See Change' is created by high school students, is that the music is composed, and mostly played, by Salyna Anza. It’s a sort of Einaudi-esque minimalist style that, whilst repetitive, is certainly effective. Once I spied the composer dancing on stage, but the sound of her piano playing was on-going. She must have swapped from her real playing to a pre-recorded track and then come on through the wings – but I definitely didn’t see that change happen.

Sometimes the piano stops, and we get an intriguing new sound track made up of drums, clapping, and what must be an exhausting sequence of sharp outbreaths from the still-dancing company. It is at this moment that, at last, the dancing comes together – no more dressing and undressing or messy individual variations on mime. Instead the group noticeably caught the audience’s sometimes lagging attention with perfectly synchronised sharp movements, accentuating the new percussive sounds.

I get the feeling that the company are a closely-knit group. There’s an air of relaxed friendliness about the whole thing, to the point that when half the group are performing their carefully democratic share of the solos the others are sitting round the edges watching supportively. I almost wonder if they’ve forgotten to go off stage in their enthusiasm, but then at one significant moment the spectators give each other furtive “looks”. I realise that far from being passive spectators, these people are acting. It’s not just a dance, see?

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Millie Morris

at 11:25 on 10th Aug 2013

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An atmospheric greeting of a stage area shrouded in blue light, walled by three black curtains and set to live, sensuous piano sets the bar high with expectations before viewing 'See Change'. The tumultuous deluge of dance that ensues, however, does not quite meet this mark; a diverse range of routines appears to bite off more than it can chew, but nonetheless evokes narrative and embraces its promised representation of change.

Most of the first few routines of the performance certainly feature ‘change’ prominently; what begins with soft, lyrical movement soon becomes harsh and bold. The dancers run around as though crazed, spilling words at three significant points within the show. They first cry ‘I was...!’, followed by ‘I am...!’, and later ‘I will be...!’, each ending with an adjective befitting their emotion. This declaration of state change is a clear metaphorical movement from past to present to future, challenging the audience’s ideas about the narrative and whether or not a comprehensible story is being told. The interaction between figures hints further at this premise; a particularly poignant moment occurs where a male and female dancer take to centre stage and the choreography is split between synchronisation and individual routines, providing a testing relationship between the pair and raising further questions as to the ambiguous narrative.

The live classical piano played by one of the dancers, Salyna Anza, is certainly a highlight, working to offset dynamic and impassioned dances which she herself joins in with from time to time. However, the dancers are not all faultless and there are plenty of unsynchronised moments. To focus on the figures individually reaps more satisfaction and detracts from their being out of time. A particularly memorable stance echoes in the memory as a handful of dancers perch over somebody on the floor, as though sitting on top of them, but instead look as if they are squeamishly squatting from the horrors of a public toilet.

The nature of this sort of performance is, I think, highly dependent on its viewer; as though pelted by a cacophony of modern art, one can either embrace subjectivity or disappointedly turn away. I was stuck somewhere in between the two; although there were a few tense, engaging moments which really implored me to think about the physicality of emotion, mostly I watched with only a mildly interested eye.

An interesting piece which is valuable in exploring how emotions can manifest themselves through the medium of movement, 'See Change' implores its audience to use their imagination when it comes to experiencing this melange of modern dance – whether they like it or not.

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