Modern with a small m

Vigour
Keneish Dance
Walker Theatre
Friday 25/10/12

Why is it that anything in the Arts world that starts with the word modern makes you want to not bother? Sometimes the work you put in outweighs the pleasure you get out. I cite Modern Art and Modern Jazz as two forms that brilliantly keep their message as covert as possible. Maybe some may argue that about Modern Dance too. However in that medium one feels at liberty to correct one’s own earlier observation.

Modern dance must not be marginalised by the Melvyn Braggs or the pseudo intellectuals in their weekly diatribes on some unwatched and very dark midnight chat show. Modern Dance is a performance quite unlike any other. It has the intensity and beauty to be able to ensnare you into the movement. It is wonderful to feel the synergy between rhythmic drumming, bird song, rainstorms and voices blended and harmonised with movement. No reason, no justification and none needed. The dance speaks for itself.

Keneish Dance, who sadly played to a select few in The Walker Theatre tonight, did all of that. To be able to create the impression of strength whilst still remaining gossamer footed, or the impression of speed whilst standing still or possibly euphoria conjured up in a gesture or a movement is a skill that you don’t just acquire, you work hard to get it and even harder to keep it. Keneish Dance had it all.

As I talk of synergy there was a wonderful dialogue with the technical script too and the lights and sounds offered solid support, sometimes chasing, sometimes leading, but making the overall spectacle of beauty with simplicity.

Keneish dancers showed commitment and character in their movements. Starting with an exploration into feminity and fertility the cast drew from African and Caribbean cultures. Entitled ‘It’s like a thorn in my side’ It was the only piece out of the trio that used a piece of setting. Lying like a giant African drum on its side skin facing the audience, the solo drumming seemed to breathe life into it and four dancers tentatively made their way from behind it using physicality to move over the contour. On turning it through 180 degrees it became more like a conch wide open for all to see. It may have been something quite different to that, but I believe the metaphor was one of birth? The long chiffon ribbon that entangled the dancers as they twisted and weaved in it, represnted the umbilical cord from the womb of humanity. You see? One can read what one likes into the piece and as long as it has reached you and spoken to you it has done its work.

The second piece was inspired by what we were told was a stunning Shona sculpture. That’s what the programme said. Unaware  what Shona sculpture was  I might accuse the programme writers of presuming too much prior knowledge. Maybe an image printed on the programme or a description of what this magnificent sculpture was might have held the key to the full meaning of the piece. Everything was so beautifully performed, to watch each sinew, muscle, tendon and body work and stretch into expression is what this art form can be about.

The third piece was a cheeky play on tit for tat and the games we play between ourselves for example relationships, breaking relationships, new friends, old friends and so on; all so powerfully represented by this team of all girl dancers.

Keisha Grant whose CV reads like an honours list compiled by every credible dance institution in the world, intricately and delicately weaved this piece together. She reached out to her audience through her intelligent choreography and left us with a master class into the beauty of Modern Dance.

It is a piece with thought, poignancy, beauty and truth.

This is a four star review.

Owen Lewis

 

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Owen Lewis Owen Lewis

Owen Lewis was born fifty something years ago in the land of the black puddings. For the geographically challenged that is in Lancashire. Moving to Shropshire From 1970 Owen was brought up in Church Stretton. His first real job was in radio. After starting on BBC Radio Shropshire he became known on Marcher Sound, broadcasting throughout the North West for several years. After a university degree course in Theatre, Owen became an actor and went on to play "Pirate Bill" in The Alton Towers Hotel. He also made several television appearances. Returning to university he took his PGCE enabling him to teach. That saw him on the Essex coast as a drama teacher and latterly as a Creative Educational Liaison Officer making films and creating new teaching methods to employ on children in need of more help in their fundamental learning skills. Published playwright Owen ultimately wants a house boat in Amsterdam to focus on his work as Playwright and Poet.

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