The annual Dance Exposé showcase is renowned for its slick and professional finish, and this year’s edition was no different. With seven distinct acts, each covering one of the seven deadly sins, this conceptual piece was gripping from start to finish.
The initial impression was powerful – with a really effective forest background set, representing the Garden of Eden, the combination of projection and installation was beautiful. Being the first production to be staged in the Refectory, I have no doubt that there were technical difficulties, but none of these were obvious to the audience, and it actually worked incredibly well as a venue. Having the stage at a lower level than the Riley Smith Hall meant that those in the front row didn’t have to strain their necks, and the audience were able to get a broader view of all those onstage. The only drawback with this was that the dances that included floor work were not as effective as they were in the Riley Smith, because they were slightly too low, so those towards the back of the auditorium struggled to see.
The opening of the show featured fourth year Grace Baylis as Eve, being taken over by the sins, symbolised by different coloured handkerchiefs. The whole company joined the stage in different coloured masks, with different colours for the different sins, and it was a very strong initial image. Each section began with a solo dance backed by a projection of the pre-recorded shadow of the dancer. Occasionally this fell out of sync, but it was an innovative tool nonetheless, and it had a great overall effect. It showed the clear long-standing collaboration between Dance Exposé and Backstage Society, who worked incredibly well together during this production. One particular solo of note was Sam Ellis’ solo. Tap dance is always a crowd-pleaser, but no more so than in this. It was unaccompanied, thus very exposed, but her technique was so strong, that the rhythm and drive was therefore created by the dance itself.
“Seven” featured so much content, and it was well structured and organised so there was a clear narrative arc flowing through the production. Our attention was also maintained throughout by the fact that the dances were kept short, so there was no time to fade out. The only element of the structure that felt a little stilted was the use of clips of music in between the dances – although this was obviously necessary for the outrageous number of quick changes, it did get a little repetitive with some songs, so they would have done better using different parts of the same song to not feel so static.
But what we all came for was the dance, and it did not disappoint. One of the most memorable pieces was the award-winning duet between Liv Khan and Lynton Williams, entitled Ego. At moments they mirrored one another’s movements but in their slightly differing styles, perfectly reflecting the subject matter. The dynamic between them was incredible, and all I regretted was that there weren’t more duets in the show. It was a real shame that their phrases were broken with audience members shouting out, which is particularly difficult in a subtle, intimate dance like this, but Khan and Williams continued magnificently.
This piece stood out particularly, because generally the contemporary numbers were not as hard-hitting as the high-energy hip-hop dances. This mostly was as a result of the blank faces of some of the dancers in these numbers, and sometimes there was a lack of consistency in facial expressions, so it was unclear what the mood of the piece was. It was sometimes unclear what the dance symbolised as a result of this.
This was never a problem in the hip-hop numbers, particularly in one of the most well received pieces of the night, Royals. It perfectly reflected the theme of “gluttony” with fabulously decadent costumes, and unlike some of the other numbers, they used every corner of the stage in new ways. The lighting used was intensely dark purple and gold, with strobe effects, so only the outlines of the dancers were visible. It all added to the over-the-top image, and the choreography only added further to this. Created by Grace Baylis, Liv Khan, Elisa Menendez and Ciara Tully, it was obvious to anyone that they had had so much fun choreographing and performing it. However, a slightly disappointing number again followed this, which was not together and the choreography was uninteresting in comparison to the creativity of Royals.
Nearly every dance deserves recognition, because there were so many hard-hitting, powerful numbers. Although there were obviously some weaker dances, the overall effect was so strong that these were forgotten about. The fourth year dancers deserve particular recognition, because their contribution was obvious throughout every dance, and they really will be a loss to the society. Exposé and Backstage have yet again delivered the goods, and it was a great evening for all.
Image courtesy of William Babarinsa