Any showcase performance at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance is a refreshing and stimulating experience. Always there is the temptation to compare the performances to a recital, a recital without stiffness and formality, a recital with uninhibited woops of delight from the audience.
There was much good humour in some of the pieces this time, sparky dialogue with occasional music played by dancers. Yes these elements have been seen in previous spring showcases at the Northern but never as much and rarely so well performed and received.
All three year groups were on show, in colours appropriate to their performance piece, and there is, on the evidence of their contributions to this showcase, an abundance of developing dance and dramatic talent in the first and second years.
Third year students staged the Imperfect Circle, by Alexander Whitley, and Doorway by Douglas Thorpe. During the interval Andrea Carter Lund, a postgraduate student from Denmark, performed a solo in the college lighting studio before a necessarily small audience. Titled Hanne it told of a woman’s experience with schizophrenia, showing inner torment and bewildered emotions without an excess of physical histrionics. Very insightful. Carter Lund revealed patterns on her skin, representing lines of mud drawn by the woman.
Carter Lund was actually auditioned by Janet Smith, the NSCD’s artistic director, in Denmark. She will be working in Copenhagen when her course concludes but we can expect to see her working in London next year.
A third year group had worked with Andrew Whitely to develop his ideas, and devise ideas of their own, in the Perfect Circle. Expert’s choice Jenny Hayes being immediately noticeable with her fluidity, exquisite balance and fleetness of foot. She flows across the stage and she leaps smoothly and effortlessly. There is ease and grace in every movement. Hayes has already been chosen for an apprentice position with the Richard Alston company when her course finishes.
The Perfect Circle played with ideas that contrasted the perfection of form in architecture with the perceived incompleteness of humans. Interest dipped a little towards the close, but this was the fault of the choreography rather than the execution. Stephanie Giles demonstrated purposeful vitality and flair, as did the energetic Leanne Horsey. Louise Gibbs and Marco Mantovani impressed with an all too short duet, both showing a fine blend of balance and surprising strength. Megan Sharples looked good in every sequence that she was a part of and Cerys James performed especially well in an emotive concluding solo.
Male dancers Jack Wignall and Josh Hawkins showed their all-round ability in the Perfect Circle. They were strong and subtle, lithe and emphatic and they are powerful without being over muscular.
Douglas Thorpe is a Leeds-based choreographer, fast becoming an in-demand national figure. His pieces invariably demand strength, power and emotional intensity in their staging. So it was with Doorway.
The mass of dancers wore loose, black tunics - immediately creating a world in which the lonely figure of Rebecca Holmberg, draped on the edge of the stage, looked vulnerable and frightened. The other dancers moved with a loose limbed power and certainty.
Expert’s choice Lewis Bramble immediately caught the audience’s attention with his lithe power and expression. His duet with Sally Bower being superbly balanced. The expert’s other choice, Marie-Corrin Chilon, wowed everyone with her physical vitality and spirit and a peach of a solo. She made it all look so easy but her skill was apparent. Both Bramble and Chilon have strong physical charisma and the ability to match.
Kayleigh Flood and Kate Cox looked good in fluid, small group situations and Cox has an angelic voice.
Both third year groups showed excellent technique and attention to detail without detracting from the artistry of the two compositions. There was total concentration throughout. That the students helped devise the compositions says much for their maturity and intelligence.
Nadine Senior, founding principal at NSCD: Jenny Hayes, Lewis Bramble. Kathy Williams, director at RJC Dance Produtions: Jenny Hayes, Marie-Corrin Chilon