Review: ‘Weightless’

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‘Weightless’ is a show by Flexer and Sandiland which celebrates the company’s 20th anniversary and combines the choreography of award winner Yael Flexer and the digital installations of Nic Sandiland. Using these techniques, the company set out to question the weight of its history.

The dancers in the company were all flawless and the live movement fitted really well with the digital effects. The piece started with an unexpected monologue. The dancer speaking was off stage and his disembodied voice came through an illuminated loud-speaker in the centre. During this speech, the dancers milled around on stage, and the voice interacted with them, asking them to ‘pick me up’, so the dancers had to take it in turns to pick up the speaker. The voice interacted with one of the dancers, asking them ‘can you do that again’ to a particular move or ‘can you do that more three-dimensionally’. This technique gave us a feel for the kind of rehearsal processes that the show must have grown out of. The company was comprised of seven dancers, and the show was made up of a refreshing mixture of group dance, duets and solos. The style was very contemporary and almost acrobatic, involving a great deal of energy from its performers who were mostly on stage for the whole piece.

It was the digital installations that really heightened the show’s impact on me. Several of the dances were caught on a camera at the front of the stage and relayed to a huge screen on the back wall. This had an interesting effect because it was black and white and thus at times looked like the dancers were spectres or ghosts, which fitted neatly with the piece’s title. The first use of this camera link to the screen was a dancer moving her arms in faster and faster circles, which on the screen gave the impression that she was flying and later on one of the company came on stage in a pair of beautifully engineered moving wings, which again reinforced one of the many interpretations of the title.

Often there would be a time delay between the dance on stage and the presentation of the same on the screen. This really helped to explore the theme of the past working in the present. At one point the camera was carried on upside down, so we were privileged with a completely different perspective of the dancers’ movements. It was odd to see the dancers’ feet at the top of the screen as if they were dancing on the ceiling, again portraying a different kind of weightlessness. There was something strangely compelling about everything shown on the screen, and I think this addition really helped to set the piece apart from more conventional dance shows.

The performance ended with another speech section, the disembodied voice this time coming from the speaker suspended from the ceiling. While the speaker was lit up the rest of the stage was in darkness. One of the dancers set the speaker swinging in a circle and then danced within this circle, ducking and twisting into and out of its orbit around him. This connection between the dancer and the speech was really effective, showing how this company is capable of more than just dance, but really brought bigger ideas forward.

The final image was the speaker swinging around above an empty stage. It was almost hypnotic, with speech such as ‘you are feeling sleepy’, and perhaps this was a final interactive attempt to make the audience feel weightless as well.

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