The opportunity to watch fresh new dance and choreography is one that many will relish. 12 Degrees North is a new venture, for graduate dancers and choreographers from the North West.  It enables them to put their skills and practice to use on the professional stage and provides the progression and experience that is so hard to gain.

The dance company is new, fresh faced and exciting with an abundance of talent and passion that shines through each incredible movement, leaving you awash with emotion.

As a mere newcomer to contemporary dance I cannot pretend to know or fully understand how much work must go into putting together such a clever show of dance, and fulfilling the incredible flow of movement, none of which felt choreographed, or planned. To me it felt raw, like it was led by pure instinct by those performing.

The show was in three stages.  The first, choreographed by Alesandra Seutin, was described in our programme as an Afro-pean dance theatre. As the house lights went down in the beautiful Grand Theatre, spot lights shone on a woman who sang what can be described as a tribal chant, wailing and sad.  This was followed by a man listening to a scrambled radio broadcast. My mind raced straight away as it evoked memories of stories of war-torn Africa and the genocide in Rwanda. Sure enough, the piece echoed with cries of war, of struggling to live a life by tradition but being oppressed by the struggle for power. Aptly named Article 1, in reference to the convention of human rights which states that all humans should be free and equal in dignity and rights, Seutin impressively fused traditional African dance with contemporary forms to express a heart aching reality of a life dictated by greed.

The second was a light hearted piece by Antonia Grove and the performers themselves, which called for the audience to pick a dance from a hat which the 5 dancers then performed beautifully. Toe the Line, a line dancing affair, was performed with gusto and charm and featured the familiar, sparkling pink cowboy hats, more often seen adorning the heads of our weekend visitors to the town. Next came Howling at Midnight which saw the performers move like the music ran through their blood.  My favourite of the set was called Holding On, in which two performers portrayed a relationship, holding on to one another throughout.  This was a passionate and turbulent affair, from a loving caress to an electric argument.  They danced through, with and around each other, but always together, until the end.

Finally, Gary Clarke brought us Bitter Suite, a hugely powerful and moving portrayal of human relationships. The lights came on to six women and one man and an eerie scene of smoke and a pile of bricks at the man’s feet. Dancing with each woman in turn, the room was full of envy while woman after woman was brought close and thrown at his feet while he moved on to the next. Each woman looked on with envy and hurt but still tried their hardest, begging for attention. Finally you saw the women stand up and fight back, catching his attention with what can only be described as an empowering animalistic war dance, a sophisticated Hakka, and knocking him back time and time again. The piece finished on a sad note, as the feminine and strong warrior-like women stood over his body, listening to Paper Roses:

Oh how real those paper roses seem to be, but they’re only imitation, like your imitation love for me.

As a first experience of contemporary dance, I didn’t know what to expect, and I still don’t know what to expect in the future. Aside from a fascinating evening of thought-provoking and emotional storytelling through dance, the pieces make you question yourself and your relationship with the topics. I was seated with a group of performing arts students from Cardinal Newman college.  After the first act, one student turned round to ask her tutor what it all meant. My friend and I were desperate to tell her of the fight for power and the oppression, of the people depicted by the dancers, unfortunately we held back and the girl was satisfied by the answer of her tutor, to question what it meant to herself.

Another wonderful experience from the evening was watching students from the same college performing a dance called Oscillate, an exploration into the dancers’ relationship with being in a group. They did very well and I hope that this opportunity was a boost to them and their aspirations to become professional dancers much like the graduates from 12 Degrees.

If you get the chance you should definitely try to catch 12 Degrees North in the future.  They are a bright, young dance company with so much to give. The Grand Theatre is bringing more opportunities to experience contemporary dance, whether it’s your first time or you’re in a full on love affair with the concept. You can find out more on their website, or follow them on twitter.


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