Never let it be said that dance doesn’t broaden your horizons. Last week it took me to Hounslow in west London, where I sat outside a pleasant pub called the Bell in Bell Square and watched one of Dance Umbrella’s live events.
Founded in 1978, Dance Umbrella used to be a must-see festival for those interested in the cutting edge of dance, introducing eager audiences to works by choreographers such as Merce Cunningham, Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker and Michael Clark. More recently, it has focused on site-specific works and dance inclusivity.
Currently it is in transition, with new director Freddie Opoku-Addaie taking over in the midst of Covid. Extra Time, by DU debut artist Ahilan Ratnamohan, showed signs of strain. It was supposedly about the choreographic potential of football, and since I love football only marginally less than I love dance, I was hoping for great things.
But anyone who has watched footballers such as Edinson Cavani, Lionel Messi, Mo Salah or Jack Grealish and been struck by their grace, by their instinctive sense of space, will have been bored by this rendition of simple football drills by dancers who lacked all intent. The small crowd that gathered much preferred – as did I – a performance from the students of West Thames College as part of DU’s Assemble project.
Fortunately, Dance Umbrella also has an online space. There, for a fiver, you will find the magical Nowhere, by Dimitris Papaioannou, filmed in 2009 at the newly renovated Greek National Theatre. Papaioannou weaves a wondrous piece, using every gantry and lighting rig, all the traps and every hidden door to muse on the sadness of life and the potential of human beings. It combines simple movements with huge imagination for maximum effect, and provides a beautiful taster for his Transverse Orientation at Sadler’s Wells next week.
Star ratings (out of five)
Extra Time ★★