Tonight’s performances were a showcase of some of the best contemporary dance companies in Europe, originating from the UK, Spain, Italy and Sweden; collectively known as the Dancing Partners. These companies have been collaborating for about seven years, taking it turns to host events which can take many different formats: outdoor street performances, community collaborations, improvisation and theatre showcases like tonight.

The thing I love about contemporary dance is that there isn’t a right way to interpret it, each performance will evoke a different emotional response and meaning to each audience member. It’s like abstract or concept art, the viewer brings their experiences, emotions and thoughts to the piece. This being said I’m going to tell you my responses to the pieces performed tonight but if you get the pleasure, and it is an immense pleasure, or seeing these performances yourself, you will undoubted have a different narrative to tell.

We were treated to five pieces this evening. The first one was entitled Watch me by the Spanish company Thomas Noone Dance. It was a solo duet piece, meaning the two dancers, Alba Barral and Thomas Noone (who also choreographed the piece with Muria Martinez), didn’t directly interact and I think that is what made it such a challenging piece to watch. As with any contemporary dance, the music is an integral part of the piece, and none more so than in this piece - fusing a duet in Catalan and German electronic music; but the dancers also used their breath and vocalised parts of their performance but more in mutterings and groans than in words. It was at times a very disconcerting piece, two people lost in the hum-drum of the everyday and desperately lonely, their desperation manifesting in physical jerks and emotional outbursts - it was a very intense start.

The second piece, Hands Down, was from the UK based Company Chameleon. It was originally conceived for an outdoor performance but had been re-worked for the theatre setting. It investigated the relationships between men, there were moments of roughness, intimacy, affection and frustration brilliantly expressed through the choreography of Anthony Missen. Anthony was meant to dance the piece with Riccardo Menghini but had hurt his back so a dancer from the company, Theo, stepped in seamlessly and only after a few hours rehearsal. This piece really moved me, nearly to tears. Riccardo and Theo gave their all to the dance - energy, emotion, their very breath!

The third and fourth pieces, presented either side of the interval, were from the Italian company Spellbound Contemporary Ballet. They were both duets Small Crime and Contrafase, choreographed by Mauro Astolfi. Small Crime was a dance of a relationship between Maria Cossu and Giovanni la Rocca. It began intimate and loving but it soon spiraled into arguments and jealousy with Giovanni becoming very controlling, a very powerful and emotional piece. The latter piece was danced by Giovanni with Mario Laterza. The two men were bare chested and the piece didn’t really have a set narrative, for me it was an exploration of masculine movement. Due to the lack of clothing we could see their torsos twist and breathe, at one point they danced without music; all we could hear was breath and footfalls, this was a highlight for me, an extremely impactful and visceral performance.

The final performance was from the Swedish Norrdans Dance Company, choreographed by Anthony Missen from Company Chameleon. It was entitled I went Out On a Summers Night and was the longest piece with a quartet of dancers: Tomáš Červinka, Claudia Fürnholzer, Jakub Mȩdrzycki and Hanna Nussbaumer. It was the only piece that had, for me, a recognisable narrative. Three of the dancers created a couple with child and then other dancer was a malevolent character or maybe the embodiment of fear (watch out for the eyes!). Fear impacted the family, hitting on the child first and then the partnership of the adult figures. It was a very creative piece with several well-plotted scenes, a simple mobile home set, great music and excellent lighting. I ran the full range of emotions watching this piece, a very satisfying end to a wonderful evening of dance.

The evening was further enhanced by a question and answer session with the directors of the four companies. It was really interesting to hear about their journey together, to see their mutual professional respect and the pressures of funding verses the creative process. They are passionate individuals who lead extremely talented companies and their synergy is exciting to partake in. If you cannot see this performance then I would definitely look out for their future projects - you are guaranteed something especially personal and deeply thought-provoking. Well done to everyone involved.

Reviewer: Alan Harbottle

Reviewed: Friday 22nd January