Motionhouse has mastered the combination of aerial dance and gymnastic athleticism and melded the beauty of physical movement with the opportunities presented by video installation.
With Broken, Motionhouse’s Artistic Director Kevin Finnan takes the audience on a white-knuckle ride through the history of the world in little over an hour from Big Bang to rocks and fossils, cave men, trapped miners and playful potholers, to then smash it all pieces with the force that has just wrecked Nepal (and gently stirred Kent).
The dance performance required the combination of physical skills and artistry that we see with our own Earthfall and so it is no surprise that Daniel Connor, one of the three men who takes the male role in the domestic scene towards the end of the piece, is a former member of that innovative company. However, complete integration is required in this cirque-type of ensemble work, with climbing and descending poles, weaving between poles jutting out of the backdrop of a slit curtain (think huge vertical venetian blind) on to which the video is projected.
We have the explosion of creation (for want of a better term) and the eventual reduction of everything back to a cosmic dust, achieved by the integration of the dance movement with video projections, then the fascinating multimedia experiences propelled us along on a geologist’s joyride of rock formations, lave flows, seismic shifts and platonic cataclysms.
Broken is a three dimensional video and dance work where the performers appear and disappear into the video (through those slits in the curtain), at times on to the stage, at others on to those poles rising from the floor and at other times seemingly precariously onto the poles thrust out of the deceptively intricate set.
Some of the cleverest and most inspired movements were the dancers creating tableaux that were then developed into either tree roots or plants thrusting out of the ground, seemingly carrying the dancers with them, the development into fossils or bursts of flames as they plunged in and out of lava pools.
We also had this use of video projections giving the illusion of the dancers are moving behind the curtain until they do actually appear and then disappear, particularly when we have the strange spirit like beings that visit the men hewn out of the ever changing rock faces. The female dancers tip-toed into our vision, faces covered, and back out again giving a spiritual element to the geological, evolutionary thread of the choreographic narrative.
Some sections worked better than others and the discovery of shadow when mankind has embraced fire jarred with the more ethereal atmosphere of much of the work. The stilt walking giant shadow defused the poetic flow of the otherwise symphonic construction of music, from Sophy Smith and Tim Dickinson and Natasha Chivers lighting fused with the digital imagery from Logela Multimedia.
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The Riverfront, Newport