Takeover Festival 2012: Verve 12

Although brilliant in demonstrating the great skill of its dancers, Verve 12 unfortunately fell short in forging a strong connection with the audience

Photo Credit: Chris Nash

Photo Credit: Chris Nash

Venue: York Theatre Royal
Rating: ***
Producer: Verve 2012

The production of Verve was an exceptional exhibition of the talent and diversity of today’s young dancers. Their athleticism, endurance and precision was remarkable, leaving the audience visually impressed. The production consisted of five short choreographed dance pieces, ‘Let go’, ‘Dark in the Afternoon’, ‘For Dear Life’, ‘Dynamo’ and ‘Vertical Road’ with two intervals in between each performance. This was a collaboration of creative and musical directors combining their efforts to produce individual and unique performances run by The Postgraduate performance company of the Northern School of Contemporary Dance.

As far as the audience was aware, there was no interlinking theme or storyline connecting the pieces. This made understanding any underlying meaning in each dance difficult. Entering into the theatre with the intention to fully comprehend the creative ambition behind each dance leaves you wanting, as the production as a whole relied more heavily on provoking lasting tension amongst the audience. Whilst it was remarkable, the production’s commitment to maintaining a high level of intensity throughout, the absence of story in each piece left room for almost too much imagination, leaving the audience bemused, with little emotion to personally relate to. Moreover there was an overwhelming theme of darkness which conjured a very suspenseful atmosphere. The piece ‘Dark in the Afternoon’, although faultless in precision and execution, became almost uncomfortable as the backing soundtrack, although uncomplicated, grew to such overwhelming volume. This presence of highly understated Angst was continuous across all the dances and was never substituted with an emotional relief. A sense of impending doom, was unrelenting and left the audience drained and vaguely unsatisfied with the lack of insight the dances allowed for.

Whilst it is easy to criticise the abstractness of the entire production, one must commend each performance for offering a new dimension in terms of choreography to the overall experience. The company of dancers in ‘Let go’ exhibited a huge amount of musicality against such a bare and neutral set. Any possible distractions were intentionally sidelined to the extent where there were times without any music at all, our focus was entirely on dance as a skill and the interaction between the dancers. This minimalistic approach was endearing and grew our interest in exploring further, the abilities and creativity of the dancers. The second piece ‘Dark in the Afternoon’ introduced more prominently the use of harmonising lighting with climatic moments in the choreography which was exciting to the eye. Whilst possibly coming under criticism of being almost messily frantic, ‘Dynamo’s redeeming feature was the clever construction and then deconstruction of the dance as part of the choreography itself. Additionally, the dancers’ timing and precision in what appeared to be very complex climatic up tempo moments was impressive. The final piece ‘ Vertical Road’ presented the first simple costume addition, the dancers having a covering of chalk on their clothes which when pounded against was used to interesting effects; emphasising the almost worship-like movement.

Overall, one leaves the theatre overwhelmingly impressed by the sheer talent, show of athleticism and visually pleasing choreography across the production. Despite the short comings in fully understanding the intention and meaning of all the pieces, what was created were five gripping pieces of contemporary dance.

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