Introducing one of our volunteer dance reviewers, Martha Scholefield:
Martha graduated with a first-class degree from the Dance Theatre course at University of
Plymouth in 2018. Since then she has been working as a dance practitioner with Exim Dance Company and Plymouth Dance and administrator for Dance in Devon, as well as her own freelance work including a performance project in Lisbon with Adam Benjamin. Since writing her undergraduate dissertation she has been keen to continue her academic writing, particularly performance reviews.
Review of Fierce | curated by Barbican Theatre, Plymouth's FUSE Diverse Dance and Chhaya Collective
by Martha Scholefield
Saturday 26 October 2019 at Plymouth Athenaeum
The show, Fierce, at the Plymouth Athenaeum definitely rose to its powerful title and it was
fantastic to see such a variety of works that had all been created by women. The marketing
led me to believe the evening would showcase three or four professional works, however
after two and a half hours and eleven dance pieces, spanning a wide range of levels of
professionalism, it was less clear what the evening as a whole was intending to be.
The first piece, How I got Here, was choreographed by Alleyne Dance Company and
performed by the Barbican Theatre’s Movers and Shakers. It contained well executed lifts
and clear focus between the dancers. Interestingly, a decision was made to have a one male
in the piece; impressively, he did not distract from the female empowerment element. I
particularly enjoyed the moment when he was lifted by a female dancer because despite
being the one who was elevated and being spun around, this moment was not about him
but about the power and strength of her.
This piece would be a great introduction to contemporary dance to anyone who was new to
viewing dance as it was visually pleasing, energetic and displayed effective choreographic
devices such as canon, where the dancers created a powerful wave-like effect. I felt the
colour scheme of the costumes were aesthetically pleasing but they didn’t necessarily add
anything to the power of the piece.
The second piece, Devi, created by Kiran Ratna, Chitralekha Bolar and Mohan Kumar and
performed by Vibha Selvaratnam, was a stunning Bharatanatyam performance piece that
combined the traditional Indian dance style with sections of spoken word and gestures. This
multidisciplinary approach made the piece engaging and was effective in telling the story of
the Goddess of power, Goddess Parvati. The simple yet effective use of coloured lighting
enhanced the emotion behind each part of the story and the third section of movement
began with a beautifully clear pose in silhouette against the light backdrop.
In the second half of the evening, Untold Dance Theatre performed You and I,
choreographed by Vicki Hearne. This company strives to create entertaining dance theatre
that is socially and politically relevant with an additional focus on women’s mental health.
The intention behind every movement was clear and the attentiveness of the two dancers
towards one another was captivating. The purpose of the metal buckets and rope was unclear,
however presumably this would make sense when watching the full-length work, Ties That
Bind, which this section was extracted from. The guitarist, situated downstage left of the
action, performed beautiful live accompaniment which he mixed and looped himself from
the stage with a foot pedal. Part of the movement was also performed to a recorded
soundscape of voices talking of their own experiences of homophobia; in combination with
the echoing guitar and powerful duet work, this created a compelling atmosphere.
Overall, the depiction of the word ‘fierce’ was demonstrated well throughout the evening,
and some of the performances really stood out to me as having the potential to be further
developed into really stunning, thought provoking and captivating pieces of performance.
Top Image: Fierce | FUSE Diverse Dance