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Dance Theatre Review: Motionhouse's Scattered at Nottingham Playhouse

13 February 17 words: Ian Douglas

Ian C Douglas went to see Scattered at the Nottingham Playhouse...

If you’re looking for original, experimental dance, you’ve come to the right place. Scattered is a production by the dance theatre Motionhouse, a company set up with the aim of creating startling, passionate performances.

Startling is the word. The curtain rises on a huge metallic slope, like a smooth climbing wall. It must easily be twelve feet high or more. A girl walks along the top, balancing as though on a tightrope. And then…jumps! A chorus of gasps escape from the audience. But the slope catches the figure, and she rolls safely onto the stage. This is a stunt the dancers will repeat over and over, and in a variety of ways.

The blankness of the wall serves as a projection screen. Throughout the piece, pictures of ice and water ripple across its shiny surface, glaciers, swimming pools, waterfalls, refrigerators and more.

Abstract dance is perhaps the best descriptor. There’s no narrative or characterisation. Nor is there any spoken word. Seven dancers throw themselves around the set and against the slope for seventy minutes. Gyrating, twisting, jumping, running, falling. The style was gymnastic in its strength and movement. The athleticism of the seven strapping young performers is dazzling. The four men look more like weightlifters than ballerinos. Again and again, they shimmy up that flat slope. At one point, bungee-style climbing ropes help them dangle overhead.

There is some unnerving imagery. People trapped inside lace cocoons, struggling to break free. A puddle with a disturbing reflection. A murky subterranean world lurking beneath the surface of a neglected house pool.

The music is an audio backdrop to the weird and wonderful dance routines. Ranging from Buddhist meditation to Spanish guitars, from percussive chimes to sci-fi futurism, it never distracts from the awesome dance.

The young performers return at curtain call, hardly out of breath. And yet the sheer physicality of the choreography is one of the outstanding features. No wonder then, that many in the auditorium gave a standing ovation. This production of Scattered proves dance is still cutting edge.

Scattered was performed at Nottingham Playhouse on Tuesday 7 February 2017

Motionhouse website

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