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Belonging(s) at King’s House, Brighton – ‘imaginative site-responsive piece’

Scene from Belonging(s) at Brighton Festival. Photo: Brighton Festival/Victor Frankowski Scene from Belonging(s) at Brighton Festival. Photo: Brighton Festival/Victor Frankowski
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This contemporary dance promenade from choreographer Maresa von Stockert will undergo a metamorphosis for its next performance at the Norwich Festival. That’s because it’s site-responsive, flowing around the city in which it’s performed – in this case Brighton – like the flock of paper birds at its close. It is also community specific, with 23 local participants joining the company of nine dancers.

Both aspects help to deepen the theme of belonging (and belongings), which Stockert explores with the aid of cardboard boxes and vinyl records. The first act takes place in a car park to the ticking of industrial electronica, the dancers moving like automata in a makeshift production line. Act two has a casual, sepia warmth as they unpack photographs and dance to old records. The third act scatters itself along the Brighton seafront, where the dancers try to pack themselves in boxes as if for transit, or to take flight with record sleeves for wings.

The use of props is imaginative and surprising. At one point boxes are stacked to suggest human forms, which the group then operate like puppets. But the possibilities of the props are explored so exhaustively that these individual moments begin to lose their impact.

In the closing section, recorded voices describe often contradictory experiences of ‘belonging’: it is a feeling of being present, of being possessed, something gained through travel, the sound of the sea. The recording fades behind us as we follow the paper birds along Brighton promenade. It’s as if the piece itself, like the voice that speaks of shedding belongings, doesn’t want to be pinned down.

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Verdict
Community performers deepen the meaning of this rather prop-heavy promenade piece
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