The Shadow is Company Chameleon’s first full-length work to be produced from its new Openshaw-based dance studio. And there was a warm reception at Home for the premiere, its first in the city for more than a decade.
Described as a dark and psychological thriller told through dance and movement, it takes dance to places not often explored in this way. If film-maker Ken Loach was to make a dance piece I imagine it might be something like this. It is raw, gritty and of the streets. Yet at the same time this physically demanding and athletic work is also artistically accomplished. It is a rare mix.
Choreographer and co-artistic director, Anthony Missen cites psychoanalyst Carl Jung as his inspiration for exploring the unconscious dark side of personalities that are often hidden. This leads to a lot of tension on the stage, which gives the feeling of watching a thriller. Shadowy figures in black hoodies and full-fencing masks stalk the stage. Dancers size-up each other aggressively. Relationships are played out with violence and sadomasochistic fetishes, with one dancer caged like a gimp.
Elements of fear, isolation, humiliation and abandonment run though the life sketches of the six characters whose shadows come and go, returning sometimes in suffocating numbers. At one point a dancer has a seat pulled from under him and the rest let out hollow laughter that echoes menace rather than mirth.
Composer Ben Chatwin’s tense score adds to the suspense. It an intense piece which only lets up slightly during a rave scene. This gives way to some comical peacock strutting dance moves, but the undercurrent of threat never quite leaves the stage. This makes ‘The Shadow’ overall rather one-dimensional and challenging to watch. For an hour-long piece I’d have preferred a clear narrative. It feels like the skill of the dance and the emotions it evokes is to be appreciated rather than enjoyed.★ ★ ★
The Shadow presented by Company Chameleon is at Home, Manchester on 22 and 23 November 2019.