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In-Finite Space, Science Museum – Review

IJAD Dance Company
Artistic Director Joumana Mourad
★★★

Pros: Fearless, approachable experimental performance infused with fun and innovation. Collaboration between the dancers and beatboxer/vocal sculptor Jason Singh, who scores the show live on stage, is quite extraordinary.
Cons: Site lines from all angles in the space are not perfect and action is blocked from certain places. There is sometimes too much happening at once while the stage is not always used to its fullest.
Our Verdict: IJAD Dance Company have found a superb match in subject matter to inspire creativity and innovation from their medium. The show is mesmerising food for thought.
Credit: Dominic Farlam
While the Big Bang theory might seem an unlikely topic for creative interpretation without words, it actually translates itself beautifully into dance and movement. IJAD Dance Company re-imagine the universe and its creation in room T4 of the Cosmos and Culture gallery at the Science Museum using light, projection, sound and movement. In-Finite Space is a part of Nour Festival and inspired by Middle Eastern astrology, of which the Museum has quite a collection. Through this connection and director Joumana Mourad’s own Lebanese heritage, the piece explores the vastness that is Space.
In a darkly lit room jugglers Ximbay and Ken Carlile begin to bring fluorescent flashing planets into orbit, while the four dancers of the piece, Alice Gaspari, Ellen Yilma, Eithne Kane and Petros Treklis, launch themselves into space with at least one of them constantly moving as planets forever rotate around them. Beatboxer Jason Singh guides the dancers through space with his live sound-scape while big philosophic questions about time, space and the universe are projected against the back wall. At some stage the audience is invited to tweet #InfiniteReach in hopes of their tweet making it across IJAD’s constellation like shooting stars as part of the show.
It’s a visual feast throughout which you cannot help but feel at least slightly as if you are floating through the milky way as the lights attached to the dancers cut through the darkness or a juggled bright planet floats into vision. The choreography itself is thrillingly intricate and unusual with featured solo performances that are especially entrancing. The relationship between beatboxer and dancer, and the almost kinetic guidance each gives the other, turns a solo into a seamless duet. Watching Singh conduct himself through his sound-scape of beatbox and synthetic sound is almost as entertaining as watching the movement of the performance itself.
While the concept of the jugglers circulating the planets around the space was clever and aesthetically intriguing, it did look a bit aimless and random at points. However, that very well could have been the point. This idea worked best when the planets were interacting with the dancers either directly or indirectly.
The massive room within which the performance took place in, while perfect for conveying the vastness of Space, was mostly empty with the majority of the performance being concentrated in one area. While this again could have been a deliberate choice as a metaphor for the Big Bang theory, more emphasis, perhaps through lighting, on the empty spaces may have made more of an impact.
One cannot review this performance without commenting on the use of social media, a medium that performances in general struggle to use effectively. Whilst adding an innovative and interactive layer to the performance, it was not a highlight or an important part of the piece, or at least not for me. For me, I think the piece rests on the subject matter and the performers. As the responsibility for the social media component of the show relies heavily on the audience, the success of it in each performance depends on how motivated the audience is to tweet whilst watching. In the performance I saw, we did not do our job well enough.
On the whole, In-Finite Space was cleverly composed to involve the audience as little or as much as they liked on an intellectual, emotional and social level and was entirely engaging despite its minor imperfections. The conceptual aspect could have been slightly elaborated and finessed in my opinion. While this particular performance was for one night only, I will be keeping my eye out for future productions of IJAD Dance Company to come.
Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!
In-Finite Space has now completed its run at the Science Museum.

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