Joss Arnott Dance’s Dark Angel Tour

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The New Realities project by Dep Arts, designed to attract new audiences to contemporary dance across Yorkshire, recently brought Joss Arnott Dance to the Stanley and Audrey Burton theatre to perform their Dark Angel tour. As I’ve seen a few Phoenix Dance and other shows there, and really like it as a venue, I leapt at the chance to go and enjoy the performance last week.

In a lovely local touch, the curtain raiser was a piece choreographed by Arnott and danced by students from Leeds City College. They all did brilliantly well, in particular the young man who opened and closed the performance, although I must apologise – I can’t name check him as I don’t have a list of the dancers!

The Dark Angel Tour proper is three pieces, opening with Origin. This was danced by Arnott himself and was unquestionably my highlight of the night. It’s a short piece but completely enthralling: I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the stage. Arnott travels to the limits of what his body can do, contorting and gyrating as a pool of light slowly spread across the stage. He assumes unexpected, uncomfortable positions but maintains a fluid movement and makes the whole thing look completely effortless. The overall effect is mesmerising and I wasn’t surprised to hear a buzz of excitement in the seats around me as the curtain fell. Of the whole showcase, this is the piece that has stayed with me over the past week, as I remember the strange, unconventional beauty of the movements and the scene.

The next two pieces were danced by the all female company. It’s hard not to group 24 and Threshold together in my mind as I felt they shared very similar aesthetics and even themes. They both explore the female body and beauty in an incredibly dynamic, aggressive and powerful way, using tribal beats and violence and darkness. There are beautiful solos and glorious duets but the company was at its best when everyone was moving in perfect, mind numbing unison to the persistent beat of an invisible drum. To call it watchable is a huge understatement: it was hypnotising. Where Origin is about introspection and our relationship with ourselves, 24 and Threshold seem to be more interested in society’s relationship with our bodies and the way we interact with each other.

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A real wow factor for me was the physicality of the dancers. They did some incredible contortions, jumps and flips, sometimes leaping into the air and landing on their knees without any suggestion that it might have been difficult or painful, while the audience visibly flinched. It was amazing to watch and the young dance students sat near me were absolutely gobsmacked! It was so lovely watching them be inspired by dancers who are living their dreams: I only hope that funding cuts or a lack of support for dance don’t stand in the way of this next generation.

The Dark Angel Tour by Joss Arnott Dance will be at the Wakefield Theatre Royal on 11th May 2013 and Barnsley Civic on 1st June 2013.

I was given a free ticket for this event.

Images courtesy of Dep Arts and Joss Arnott Dance

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