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Critic on Stage: Dancing to Our Own Beat

Posted: 15/03/2013 15:23

This week was the last dance rehearsal before I take to the main stage of the Lowry in Manchester, captivating an audience of 2,000 with my balletic grace and elegant style. Just kidding, it's actually an audience of 100 in the venue's smallest studio and I'll be dancing with an umbrella. Still, pretty nerve-racking for someone whose glittering stage career amounts to that one time I played a warbling cockney milk maid in my high school's widely slated production of Oliver.

Over the past few sessions at my modern dance class, we've been getting our moves ready for the show, billed by the Lowry as 'Adult Talent Showcase' (three optimistic but probably inaccurate descriptions). We've been taking all the separate bits of movement - solos that recall a happy memory, duets that play with weight and tension, trios with weird and wonderful props - and moulding them all together with a series of transitions. Most of these transitions are basically 'walking from one thing to another', but it means I don't have to come up with any more shoddy choreography myself (my creations, bizarrely, are all a little too reliant on impersonating a waterfall). The 30-minute piece is a now a lovely big colourful swirl of bodies and props - hopefully fun and interesting to watch.

But it's been missing music - up until this week we've been dancing to a disconcerting mix of Ravi Shankar and Two Door Cinema Club. Luckily we have a composer, an tremendously Irish gentleman who swaggers into our rehearsal studio wearing bright red Dr Martens and about five instruments. It turns out his music is more The Corrs than The Sex Pistols, but it works well with what we're doing.

The process of how he composes music for each fragment of the performance is fascinating. Our solos, for example; this is a section of the dance where we cluster in the middle of the stage like penguins, and each take turns to separate from the group and perform a few phrases before rejoining the pack. Our composer watches us rehearse the piece a few times, senses the emotions and attitude that we're trying to convey, and then comes up with a soft oboe tune that alters its tone, adapting to each dancer's solo. It's melodic and light-hearted with little flourishes that characterise each solo.

There's a bit of the choreography right at the end of the show where we all simulate walking on a frozen pond, on tip toes, quietly, carefully, and (for my part) unsteadily. It ends with us gradually moving to the floor, and pretending we can fly, a finale with a triumphant feel. The flute melody mirrors this perfectly; it's sharp and almost discordant at first, gradually building to a cheerful, airy crescendo.

It's really exciting to see all our hard work start to come together and all the fragments of the show slot into place. Next up: the performance! I feel about as prepared as I could for someone who's had nine dance classes ever and still isn't entirely certain which one is stage right...

 

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