Pros: Skilful, charismatic dancers and engaging finale featuring a youth dance troupe.
Cons: Ethical themes make the subject matter difficult to sell through the medium of dance.
Buried in a sprawling Camberwell housing estate, the Blue Elephant is truly a theatre in the heart of the community. The venue is homely with friendly and approachable staff. The theatre’s seating area is decked out with scatter cushions and could be anyone’s living room. An added bonus is the sumptuous leg room allowing patrons to stretch out and therefore your reviewer is pleased to report an evening free of cramp.
The Tempered Body Dance Theatre regularly tackle inaccessible and complicated topics. It Goes Here Now is no exception, dealing with the vexed issues of genetic modification, cloning and designer babies. I silently gulped when I read the programme notes. Such matters are difficult enough to express in words let alone contemporary dance. However, Tempered Body largely overcame the drawbacks of dialogue free performance.
Three leading dancers, clad in flesh coloured body stockings, deliver beautifully controlled performances. A driving soundtrack and teasing video projection lend an extra dimension. With balloons and biros as props, they interpret the subject with great gusto. They show the tussle between science and nature, manipulation of life, rejection of flawed beings and, worst of all, a uniform human race without character or distinction.
The leading dancers remain on stage for pretty much the entire performance. Even so, they were consistently engaging and driven. This is no mean feat for three dancers on an otherwise empty stage. The final ten minutes of the show were filled by the Highgate Ballet School Youth Dance Company. Dressed in black suits, black tie and fedoras, they looked like miniature Michael Jacksons! Strutting hypnotically, they provided the final element to the piece; robotic, identical, perfect human beings.
Whilst the overall message was clear, I feel that some subtleties were lost. Dance is a purely visual medium and the audience need to work very hard in finding every nuance. I found myself concentrating more on the dance itself rather than the underlying expression. It should also be noted that choreographer, Maddy Wynne-Jones trained in ballet for seven years. So it comes as no surprise that balletic influences are so obvious. However, with ballet the themes are generally softer and more accessible. The topic of Genetics is heavily academic and grapples with contrasting ideologies.
In my opinion, this isn’t ideal material for contemporary dance. As a production, it’s daring, provocative and innovative, but the concept only partially works because the subject matter is so inflexible. I sense this production’s appeal might be limited to a specialised audience and won’t attract the average theatregoer. Having said that, for a show lasting just over an hour, £8.50 per ticket is excellent value for money.
Choreographer: Maddy Wynne-Jones
Technical Director: David Strange
Music: Adam Janota-Bzowski
Producer: Tempered Body Dance Theatre
Box Office: 0207 701 0100
Booking link: http://www.temperedbody.com/#!tour-2014
Booking until: 2 May 2014 and currently touring nationwide