The language of dance is universal and this mixed bill, hosted by Manchester’s Company Chameleon at The Lowry, highlights the constants of the human condition beautifully. We all experience relationships, love, pain, fear and struggle, and the emotions evoked by these five short pieces are in some ways all the stronger for the fusion of talents from countries whose mother tongues are very different.
Here Company Chameleon is joined by Nordans from Sweden, Thomas Noone Dance Company from Spain, and Spellbound Contemporary Ballet from Italy, which performs two duets. While each of the dance companies is distinct, they share a raw excitement that explores the strength, flexibility, and also vulnerability of relationships.
Sometimes this is uncomfortable to watch. The show opens with Watch Me from Thomas Dance, a solo duet that is often painful for the audience as the dancers display a series of struggles, which at times includes gasping for breath. This is followed by Company Chameleon’s Hands Down. As the curtain is about to go up, co-artistic director of Company Chameleon Anthony Missen tells us he has injured his back badly and won’t be dancing tonight. Theo Fapohunda has stepped in at the last minute, and what a fine job he does. In this absorbing duet with Riccardo Meneghini, the pair wrestle and fight like brothers, and also take it in turns to be the supportive strength.
The two pieces from Spellbound Contemporary Ballet have an elegant fluidity and strength to the movement that capture love, loss and a sense of being out of control. However, the final piece by Norrdans is perhaps the most striking theatrically in its power to evoke uncomfortable emotions of suspense, fear and disgust. Billed as a dramatic and expressive thriller set in a fantasy world of inner fears, wishes and dreams, it covers challenging areas of stalking, violence and child abuse. The result is tense and disturbing, but in this sense it does its job well.
This is not a mixed bill for the faint-hearted, and while not always enjoyable it is to be commended for encapsulating the strength and variety of emotions being expressed through contemporary dance today.
Dancing Partners is at The Lowry from 22-23 January 2016.
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