I don’t know the first thing about Contemporary Dance. I really don’t. To my tiny and untutored world it looks a bit like random movements to often jarring music and feels a lot like someone trying to tell me something important and urgent. But in Swahili.
At least that was how I felt until I saw EDge, the London Contemporary Dance School’s postgraduate performance company and why I am excited that they are coming back to Exeter Phoenix on Tues 22nd May. It won’t be the same group as last year and they won’t be doing the same thing, but they will be 12 of the most promising and exceptional dancers on the scene today.
The programme will feature new pieces by Matthias Sperling and James Wilton alongside other works such as Alston Takes Cover which I confess I googled to find out more because even to a novice like me the name Richard Alston is something of a by-word for Really Good Contemporary Dance.
According to EDge, to celebrate the choreography of Richard Alston, The Place and Dance Umbrella jointly commissioned Tony Adigun and Rachel Lopez de la Nieta to create works inspired by the Alston classic Wildlife. The original piece, considered groundbreaking back in the eighties, has been revitalized with Tony Adigun playing on the foliage of the jungle, creating constellations and floor patterns whilst still using his own specific ‘street’ style of moving.
Alston has been pleased with what the new breed of choreographers and dancers have done to his work. He enjoyed the sense that Rachel Lopez used it to reinvent David Attenborough – making her piece a ‘very earnest but hilarious documentary’. That spirit, of not holding particular pieces as sacred, is something that is central to the ethos of Contemporary Dance, which by its very nature needs to be of the moment and yet it has a past; as a genre it is now a pensioner. What EDge are doing is ensuring that Contemporary Dance continues to question itself as well as the other more standardized, structured dance forms.
I believe it is hard to keep art forms such as dance from seeming elite and I suspect that is an indictment of our culture today, in which we live more in the head than the body, but seeing EDge perform and taking our role as the interpreters of their energy, spirit and skill is one way perhaps to unify mind and motion at least while the dance plays on.
Richard Alston on Wildlife: