Spring Forward umea2014


Spring Forward proved to be a chocolate box of a festival, not everything was to my taste but overall, a stimulating gift.  So who were the tastemakers? 

Standing out from the crowd were the groups who offered something visually arresting.  Nomodaco and Tove Skeidsvoll did this with glossy dance film Outside In featuring Skeidsvoll’s ethereal charm. Similarly the surreal playfulness in Lander Patrick’s Cascas d'OvO (Eggshells) surprised us at every corner, glittering motif tattoos included.  Alternatively Harry Koushos’ philosophical take on the state of Man used minimalist lighting and semi naked bionic movement to optically entice us. Clément Dazin also stunned with his sophisticated juggling/hip hop/contemporary mash up Bruit de couloir.  All these presentations shared one similar successful trait: they continuously evolved visually and physically whilst staying true to their original idea.

Visuals aside, experimentation with sound was apparent. From physically rolling stones on stage in Elle Sofe Henriksens Sápmi tribute, to scratching stilettos in Recollective’s Repose, the scope for sound play in choreography is evident. It was refreshing as well to see live musicians and their instruments interwoven into Viktória Dányi, Zsófia Tamara Vadas and Csaba Molnár’s Skin Me piece. Hopefully the gauntlet has been laid for more original soundscapes in the future. 

As for the movement, results were inconsistent. Slow repetitive choreography was infuriatingly endemic in the programme, devaluing the concepts under consideration. Perhaps the length of the pieces contributed to this, with performances often feeling drawn out and overthought to the point of inaction. A notable exception to the rule was Jan Martens' The Dog Days Are Over whose 70 minutes of jumping choreography was a staggering display of the punishing world of a dancer and the expectations placed on them.  As demonstrated by Martens, the agility of the dancers at the festival was clearly high, it would have been credit to them as well as the audience, to witness this throughout the festival. 

Conceptually there were some discernable trends. Gender politics were regularly and gratifyingly touched upon whether it was through the dance partnership, choreography or even costume choices. Tereza Ondrovŕ and Peter Šavel employed all three effectively in their strut swapping Boys Who Like to Play With Dolls. Equally in Alexis Vassiliou’s Please Be Gentle the audience were challenged by a male duet blurring the lines between sexuality and intimacy through artful shivering. Paired with repetitive choreography however, there was a fine line between making a statement and overworking it, unnecessarily weighing down the piece. Subsequently Mamuro Iriguchi’s wacky Swan Lake/Star Wars hybrid did well to lighten the mood.

It seemed that the overall selection was skewed towards dance theatre and performance art. Although satisfied briefly with the lively jazz synchronicity of Eléanore Valčre Lachkey’s Whirling, my thirst for more dynamic dance grew exponentially. At the panel discussion on critical dance, the topic of coy communication between dancers, companies and audiences was raised. I wonder and hope if with greater inclusive discourse and collaboration, we will savour more varied contemporary dance content and production flavours.

Alice Robotham

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