On Thursday 3 April I made my way down to The Grand Theatre. Previous to Thursday’s show I had heard much about 12 Degrees North, an energetic contemporary dance company comprising of post-graduate dancers. I took to my seat and waited for the evening to begin.
The curtain raiser for Thursday’s show was choreographed by Lindsey Brocklebank, of 12 Degrees North, and comprised a brilliant group of A-Level Dance students from Cardinal Newman College. The snappy piece, entitled Just a Little Coffee (before I contemplate world domination) began with a barrage of coffee cups and mounds of rubbish on the stage. The dancers then entered to the chimes of Mocha and Cappuccino, capturing in a hyperbolic, entertaining and easily accessible way our coffee-obsessed culture. For me, the dance acted as a fresh satire on this often overwhelming society we willingly surround ourselves with. The final cry of the piece, the yelp of laughter from Cardinal Newman, left me wanting more. Despite the crumpled litter of the coffee cups of stage, this dance felt coolly uncluttered. This piece worked well for me; it was clean, clear and proficiently danced.
dark and unsettling tone
The first piece of the night’s main performance, choreographed by Lea Anderson, was named Renzekete Bee Zee and was inspired by one of Kurt Schwitter’s sound poems. Although sound poems may not have burst into the mainstream consciousness as of yet, this performance still managed to hold an audience for its long duration. The choreography of this piece stringently stuck to the rhythm and pace of Schwitter’s original poem. Credit must be given to the company who put everything into this ridged dance, their facial expressions and sheer performance carried the tone, mood and theme. At times this piece was hard to penetrate; however, I did get something from the dance, from the strict performances of the company. There was an almost dark and unsettling tone to the whole thing, an unspecific unease that affected me greatly. From the queasy freeze-frames to Schwitter’s intelligently placed sound poem, Renzekete Bee Zee is a though provoking and challenging work from 12 Degrees North and choreographer Anderson.
a moment of impulse
The unassuming Ellen Tuner wandered onto The Grand Theatre stage slowly, beginning to address the fairly vocal audience. A short tower of books stood beside her, next to an equally small table with some miscellaneous objects neatly set upon it. Turner then began to explain the notion of a car door moment, a moment of impulse, impulses which usually remain supressed through the caring help of all of our consciences. Ellen Turner was the choreographer for this bustling second piece entitled Car Door Moment, a piece of contemporary dance which emphatically explored the aforementioned notion of a spontaneous car door moment.
Spontaneity certainly stood as one of the main themes of the piece; however, this is obviously a very well designed and meticulously planned work. In 2012 Turner won the Turn Prize for contemporary dance with Car Door Moment and it is easy to see why; this is a fun piece, undoubtedly, however, Car Door Moment features at its drive a universal truth which we can all relate to – the sudden urge to do something which falls outside our normal status quo. At the end of the dance Blackpool’s Grand Theatre erupted with applause and laughter. Car Door Moment was definitely a crowd pleaser. A light-hearted yet brash exploration of all of our car door moments.
During the fifteen minute interval it was easy to gauge people’s feelings toward the night so far. What was important was that nobody shared a similar experience, or at least engaged with the piece in the same way as the person sitting next to them. This is the nature of contemporary dance, a medium which, unlike film or literature, is not clearly defined or even expressed. 12 Degrees North seem to successfully explore what it means to perform contemporary dance, leaving enough space for the audience to breathe and think for themselves.
The final piece of the night, aptly named Lucid, explored complex themes of thought, will and manipulation. Lucid was choreographed by the company and also the extraordinary James Wilton, a man who has now firmly made his mark on the contemporary dance world. This highly physical piece captured once again the sporadic movements of our minds. Through the use of plain costuming and strong definite, defiant movements, Wilton and the 12 Degrees North company has created an engaging and enjoyable work filled with evocative moments and soaring examples of technique. This vibrant mix of acrobatics and contemporary dance with tinges of the martial arts made for an easily watchable dance with an interesting central idea at its heart. James Wilton Dance will be performing their new show Last Man Standing on 8 April at The Grand Theatre.
If the opportunity arises then 12 Degrees North are not to be missed, especially at The Grand Theatre. This unusual setting allowed for an interesting new perspective. Whether it is to challenge an audience, like Anderson’s piece, or excite a crowd, like Wilton’s Lucid, this young, fresh company offers an insight into what contemporary dance can do.
Images courtesy of Blackpool Grand Theatre.
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