Illuminated: A Review

‘Illuminated’, a light-themed dance performance by Quinksandance, is innovative, energetic, and brilliant. The performance is comprised of ten interconnected dance pieces, each showing off virtuoso interactions with the light in all its subtleties.

Each piece contains a distinct narrative texture that complements the vibrancy of the strobe lighting. The relationship between the body and the light is explored lovingly and tenaciously; in ‘Discovery’, Natasha McCabe’s ending sequence involves curling into a circle of light cast by overhead light-orb, the light placidly enveloping her open vulnerability. In ‘Cluster’ light is a source of curiosity and possibly danger, as dancers inquisitively chase and are chased after a pool of light. In ‘UV’, the fluorescent gloves light up against the darkened figures of dancers. A dozen hands flit across the stage like iridescent fireflies, landing and alighting, at one point soaring together as a giant set of wings, before scattering into scores of glittering fingers.

‘Glitch’ is a particularly beautiful piece of storytelling that uses light to illuminate the frailty of human relationships. The sequence starts with dancers walking across the stage, the glaring light accentuating the sharp facial outlines. The light, almost surgical in its brightness, sharply defines the bodily limits; however, as the two dancers collide mid-space, the lighting stains red. As the two dancers tentatively mingle their personal spaces, leaning on each other, transferring weight, and connecting limbs, the music intensifies. Punctuated with electoral buzzes, the dance becomes increasingly passionate and intimate, as the two dancers move in free abandon, Brittany Roberts climbing Nils Behling’s shoulder, reaching for something faraway only to fall back down. The sequence climaxes when the two dancers collide once again with a flash of red lighting; they walk past each other, coldly separate in spatial gravity, just like the beginning of the sequence. The intense, compact piece figuratively encapsulates merging of personal spaces, charting a relationship that buds like a ‘glitch’ in our subjective worlds.

What is particularly noteworthy about the performance is the remarkable coordination of the lighting, dance, and the music, which renders the performance an insightful experiment in synesthesia.

What is particularly noteworthy about the performance is the remarkable coordination of the lighting, dance, and the music, which renders the performance an insightful experiment in synesthesia. The exceptional collaboration of the chroeographers (Emily Everest-Philips and Rosalind McAlpine), lighting designer (Chris Burr) and the sound designer (Jonny Danciger) creates a heightened experience that is truly atmospheric and at times, magical. As the raving lights rain down in splashes of colours and the music intensifies in the building frenzy of drums, dancers occupy a charged soundscape, making the experiment at once acutely visual as well as musical.

The versatile tone of the performance was also evident in its structure. The ten segments were individually precious but also worked to set each other off, as heavier pieces were alternated with more lighthearted and whimsical pieces. The abstract spectacle of ‘UV’, for instance, was followed by a refreshingly playful segment, ‘Shadow’, which also utilized light very differently. Two dancers dance in front of a white screen. As a lamp lights up behind the screen, the dancers’ shadows enlarge, their movements larger than life. The shadows, then, begin to rove out of control, deviating from the dancers’ movements cheekily then with increasing audacity. The dance turns into the dancers’ battles against their own shadows, as they try to seize them, chase them, and eventually, slap them into blankness. The performance encompasses numerous messages that dance can convey, from sentimental ephemerality to spirited celebration of the body. This diversity underscores the multi-faceted role of dancing- festive, sad, nostalgic, explorative, introspective- and captures vicissitudes of life in various interplay of light and movement.

20% of all ticket sales will be donated to Parkinson’s UK research, in the wake of the 2016 campaign ‘When I Dance’. ‘When I Dance’ is a new campaign by Parkinson’s UK that brings together dance companies with people suffering from Parkinson’s in order to relieve symptoms of daily life as well as to develop confidence. The triumphant final scene, in which all the dancers came on stage to dance, exhilarated, their bodies dynamic, shape-shifting screens of colourful light glowing pink, yellow, and blue under the strobe lighting, was a touchingly powerful moment. It was in many ways an embodiment of the belief that ‘It’s all about dance being for everyone and making people with Parkinsons disease happier’. (Emily Everest-Philips, choreographer)