Spirit of dance

Bury Festival Dance, The Reading Room; Bury Theatre Royal. May 15.

Bury Festival Dance, The Reading Room; Bury Theatre Royal. May 15.

The performance, composed of eight small sections, some containing dance and narrative, some just dance, definitely got better as the evening wore on. Stirrings Still, the second section, with text by Samuel Beckett, expertly portrayed one man's madness as he sat imprisoned by his own insanity in a room with just a table, eventually going out into the real world only to question his own mind; however, it went on just a bit too long to maintain audience interest. As was the case with the opening number, for which the music was too grating, but yet the dancers saved it with their skill and dexterity, really embodying the spirit of the dance - fast, furious, angular and athletic.

Actor Dexter Fletcher, from Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels fame, took on the role of the reader, accompanying five of the pieces, but for all the star quality he may have brought to the evening, it was the dancers who shone the brightest; all five of Jonathan Lunn's professional dancers were utterly superb, executing each movement with precision. Their entire bodies were part of the performance, even down to their finger tips - one of the women's hands making beckoning motions as she slowly crept across stage. Chris Rook, one of two male dancers, could easily have been a Capoeira artist with his energetic leaps, sweeps and handstands across the stage.

The scenery was stark but innovative: four large gauze panels were wheeled around as part of the performance to form either the walls of a room, or at other times a backdrop, all theatrically lit by Peter Mumford. In Sink or Swim, about the disintegration of a relationship, the lighting was reminiscent of an Edward Hopper painting - a tableau of stark lighting against harsh shadows.

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The Bury Dance Company youth group put in a good performance and it was great experience for the teenagers (though it didn't quite fit alongside the pros), but the best moments were where all the professional dancers were on stage together, so you could appreciate their diverse styles and interactivity, complimenting each other as only a close group contemporaries can do.

Another highlight of the performance was Self Assembly, with words by the late Anthony Minghella and danced by Carly Best and Chris Evans. The humorous words spoke of a self-assembly kit; never clear exactly what the final object was, nevertheless we could all relate to the endless, repetitive instructions to 'identify part a, then identify part b' (and moments of this were to be found in the opening piece, where the dancers mirrored each other as a representation of the structured building of a DIY kit). Looking deeper, this was a metaphor for sexual relations, with the male and female coming together, as portrayed at the end with the rolling together, then apart, then together again of the dancers, whose partnership was fascinating to watch - again, expert choreography performed with precision and passion.

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Katy Evans

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