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Dance Umbrella review – ‘an exciting and varied programme’

Satchie Noro in Origami at Battersea Power Station. Photo: Johnny Stephens Satchie Noro in Origami at Battersea Power Station. Photo: Johnny Stephens
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Dance Umbrella, London’s annual festival of dance, sees performances taking place across the city in theatres, small arts venues and outdoor spaces.

In the latter category is one of the more spectacular pieces of this year’s programme, Origami (★★★), an aerial dance work performed on top of a bright red, 40ft shipping container at various locations along the Thames – including Battersea Power Station.

As the container slowly transforms itself, like a giant work of origami, performer Satchie Noro dangles from its heights and folds her body around its edges. The delicacy of her movement contrasts with the industrial backdrop of the Thames. It’s a visually striking work and the unusual combination of movement and metal results in an intricate and beautiful performance.

Rocio Molina is an extraordinary force. She commands the stage through humour and passion and the power of her performance is tangible. The opening of Fallen From Heaven (Caida del Cielo) (★★★★) sees Molina upon the floor, rolling barefoot among the heaped frills of her white, meringue-like dress. As she finds her feet and dons flamenco shoes, she swaps her dress for a matador-style outfit. The traditional image of flamenco is shed. Her initially graceful movements are transformed into fierce, impassioned urgency as she beats out a stream of rhythms to the accompaniment of her four male musicians.

Donning a variety of costumes and characters, Molina takes the traditions of flamenco and pulls them apart, reforming them in her own upfront and defiant way. The intricacies of her flamenco technique remain embedded in her work. The result is a bold, modern performance of artistry and skill.

Charlotte Spencer’s Is This a Waste Land? (★★★) is more an experience than a performance, staged at dusk upon an area of disused land by Silvertown Quays. Audience members are requested to put on headphones and follow the instructions they hear. This is dance in the loosest sense – it’s a piece in which the audience become the performers.

The most intriguing part of this work is the way in which Spencer manages to choreograph a group of strangers. At times you find yourself an onlooker; at others you suddenly realise that you are creating the work with those around you. It’s a meticulously and intelligently planned piece that reflects on the way we act collectively and give its participants an opportunity to see a disused area of London in a new light.

Dance Umbrella is a diverse and, in many ways, unpredictable festival. But that’s part of its appeal. The dance it presents is pioneering – a glimpse into the future.

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Exciting and varied programme that showcases the possibilities of contemporary dance