A hypnotic night of dance

Southpaw Dance presents Riot and Men on a Mission.
Southpaw Dance presents Riot and Men on a Mission.

REVIEW: Riots and Men on a Mission, by Southpaw Dance Company, Alnwick Playhouse, Friday, December 21.

This strange and edgy dance performance probably wasn’t among the best things I’ve seen at the theatre, but it was among the most forward-thinking and unique.

And when you are talking about an arts venue in rural north Northumberland, then that’s quite an achievement.

Art of any sort should not be designed to appeal to everyone’s tastes, it should be about expressing something and in some cases provoking a reaction and debate.

The Playhouse was fuller than I perhaps feared it might be for a show that seemed like a tough sell and I was glad to see audience members old and young wishing to try something new.

This double-bill of dance, which has some of its roots in ballet, but more influence from hip-hop, break-dancing and B-boying, featured a first half entitled Men on a Mission.

It took me a little while to get into, maybe because I was expecting something a little more energetic, but the focus was more on using movement of any sort, not just dance, to reflect experiences.

Instead of the fast-paced fury I was expecting, this musing on the effects of drugs was for the most part slow, hypnotic and moody, interspersed with moments of explosive and gymnastic break-dancing.

There was no preaching, no suggestion that drugs are either good or bad, just a performance that tried to express the feeling of being out of control, whether that be in a frenzy or a slumber.

The second piece, Riots, was even more theatrical, with little dance in the strict sense of the word for much of the performance.

The completely empty stage, which was used throughout with nothing but some white lights in the wings, the darkness and small lights were used to evoke a sense of repression, torture and imprisonment and then the very modern inspiration for protest and riots – mobile phones and social media.

The music, which was excellent throughout, and movement then built to a riotous fury before slowing and fading into nothingness.