‘Unknown Places’ Contact Dance Company’s most recent ensemble piece, choreographed by dance artist Joanna Young, made a welcome return to the stage at the Arena Theatre in Wolverhampton.
This evocative and absorbing piece was performed alongside an improvised trio by Contact Dance Company titled ‘The details of the hands’. The piece was structured and inspired by Joanna Young and accompanied with sensitive and powerful live music by folk duet Deuair.
Shropshire Inclusive Dance’s co-director Rachel Liggitt has been in residence with ‘Dance Unity’ sharing some of the working methods in Contact Dance Company’s pieces and some of the ideas behind ‘Unknown Places’ The influence of the work became immediately apparent as Dance Unity took to the stage sharing a dance piece full of connection and elegance.
The final work to be performed was Contact Dance Company’s
‘Unknown Places’. The cast of 8 very individual dancers moved through shifts in mood & dynamics from subtle swaying and careful placing, to the creation of wild eddies of movement across a crowded dance floor. The piece demanded discipline and connection from the dancers, which was there for all to see.
‘A dancer moves slowly within a circle while delicate strands of lavender are precariously balanced on her. A male dancer moves and slides a large boulder through his arms, a ripple of bamboo poles balanced on dancers bodies provides a gentle rhythmic accompaniment’
The dance was accompanied by a subtle and dynamic soundscape by Jamie McCarthy.Contact Dance Company performed Joanna Young’s absorbing and finely placed work with commitment, focus and energy. Members of the audience present at the premiere of the work shared the following thoughts.
‘The new work was a wonderful piece of ensemble movement: focused, reflective, contemplative, infused with the presence not only of each dancer, but also the presence and energies of the natural world’
‘At times it felt like the piece was showing to me the ever moving qualities of the whole of humanity’
Unknown Places by Contact Dance Company is available for festivals and theatre venues.
The Arena Theatre is a wheelchair accessible venue.
How to get to The Arena Theatre:
The Arena Theatre is situated in the heart of Wolverhampton City Centre, directly behind the Wolverhampton Art Gallery and next to the University of Wolverhampton’s Wulfruna building. The theatre is completely accessible by road.
The nearby Broad Street car park is open 24 hours a day and costs £4.50 for 24-hour parking. Parking is £2 after 5.30pm.
If you don’t have change available, you can download the RingGo app directly to your smartphone. The code for Broad Street is 8035.
Wolverhampton train station is a just a five-minute walk away from the Arena Theatre.
It was with a real sense of pride and joy that Shropshire Inclusive Dance shared ‘Twofold’ to audiences at the Wolverhampton Arena. The work on show was a culmination of our ‘Two to Tango’ project funded by Creative Black Country. Eloquent and diverse duets by Contact Dance Company were performed alongside performances by groups in Wolverhampton we have worked with including Westcroft School and Mosaic Disability Theatre. The rich experiences and beautiful dancing that were present in our community workshops and company rehearsals all really come to life.
Here is a review from one of our audience members
‘Yesterday I had the joy of watching Contact Dance perform their programme Twofold twice, at the Arena Theatre in Wolverhampton. I can’t begin to communicate the profound beauty of choreographic connection conveyed by this company, thanks to the diverse skill and passion for dance demonstrated by all the artists. There is such a rich landscape of emotion, dynamic, and depth which touches and transports one across the stage and beyond. In this particular programme, through all the pieces weaved the theme of dueting; exploring and expressing the dynamics which come into play when individuals engage and merge with one another on many levels of relationship.
In ‘Unspoken’ Mervyn Bradley and Rachel Liggitt speak directly to the heart in their sensitive exploration of friendship and its ebbs and flows. Each supporting and protecting, while encouraging the other to take risks. Attachment and autonomy are in flow. Always maintained is the security of unconditional trust and tenderness, whether the dancers are connected or divided. This is about the ‘work’ of friendship, the effort, honesty and compromise necessary to nurture and empower a lasting bond with another person. This is also about love. The love that exists when two people understand and appreciate one another on a level that goes beyond words. Two very different dancers, Mervyn and Rachel take us on a poignant journey through the unity and solace to be found in true friend.
My brother Michael Wall and Andrew Kelly bring a powerful, energetic intensity to the stage in ‘While you broke through to other worlds’, thought provoking and open to individual interpretation. Is this a parting or a meeting? A reconciliation or a conflict? Perhaps these two people have discovered a division of ways along a previously shared path. There is certainly an insular atmosphere surrounding two separate entities striving to make opposite journeys; but somehow we know that each dancer has a fundamental need for the other. There remains a certainty that each man is facilitating and inspiring the other in his choices of direction. They resemble machines or rockets preparing for take off and landing, the self-contained movements erupting into sudden initiations of contact; launching, throwing, clasping, pushing. Aptly, Andrew’s and Michael’s voices ‘break through’ the music at the start and the end, reminding us that this is not a mechanical process, but very much a human one.
‘Twosome’ is a glorious, playful celebration of twinning; of the delight and harmony to be found in individual expression of the same ideas and motivations. Delphine Wise glides about the stage with grace and precision, as she manouvres the brakes and intricacies of her wheelchair, integral to the spirit of the choreography. Anna Belyavin executes identical movements by foot, running and spinning alongside. There is a sisterly affection, a vibrant closeness between the dancers allowing each to predict and be energised by the other’s interpretation of the choreography, reciprocating the gestures and movements extended and retracted. There are moments when each woman embarks on her own movement motif simultaneously, reminding us that identical motivations have potential for diverse consequences.
In the poetic ‘Father Daughter’, Chloe Shepherd and Ray Jacobs (who was standing in last night for Chloe’s real-life father and usual dance partner), tell the story of family love in a secluded rural cottage. Following a rustic morris dance, Chloe’s birth and childhood is represented by the celebration of an invisible baby; shown to the audience by her father, glowing with pride and wonder. Then Chloe, now a beautiful young woman, emerges from the shadows for real, and the two begin to waltz tenderly, spinning and stepping in time, absorbed by their joy in one another. We witness the hard work of winter life at the cottage, the chopping of wood and the fuelling of fires. Throughout the narrative, Chloe’s journey to maturity is conveyed by hints of gentle conflict between father and daughter; her desire for independence confronting his awareness that parental protectiveness must now be accompanied by detachment and an encouragement of freedom. He retreats into the shadows and we are left with Chloe in a spotlight, standing alone, venturing forth as her own self-reliant woman.
Contact Dance elevate me to a place of pure joy; reaffirming my faith in dance as an expression of the soul as much as the body. This company is a gift to the world of theatre and community. It was also a privilege to watch the students of Westcroft School in their piece ‘Connections’, and Mozaic Disability Theatre performing ‘Will You Dance With Me’.