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REVIEW: Charge at Newcastle Dance City

Motionhouse: Charge
Newcastle Dance City
Until Saturday 3rd November 2017
Photo: Dan Tucker

Conceived and directed by Kevin Finnan
Choreography: Kevin Finnan, with additional material from the company
Film: Logela Multimedia
Set design and creation: Simon Dormon and Oblique Furniture
Original score: Sophy Smith and Tim Dickinson
Lighting design: Natasha Chivers

Junior Cunningham (Rehearsal Director), Chris Knight, Martina Knight, Daniel Massarella, Luka Owen, Alasdair Stewart, Naomi Tadevossian, Rebecca Williams
Photo: Dan Tucker
Photo: Dan Tucker
The fact that the shows that Motionhouse are performing in Newcastle are totally sold out ahead of their short run, shows that there is an appetite for contemporary dance in the region. Their latest show Charge is a lively exploration of the biological side of life. Dance and acrobatics combine to create the periodic miracle.

Photo: Dan Tucker
Charge is the third element of Kevin Finnan’s ‘Earth Trilogy’, developing on themes explored in Scattered (2009) and Broken (2013) about our relationship with water and the Earth. There has been a deliberate fusion between the creative arts and science. In putting the show together, creator Kevin Finnan has worked alongside Professor Dame Frances Ashcroft and her team at Oxford University. Finnan’s idea of the human body as an electrical system tied in with Ashcroft’s concept of ion channels. These ion channels are responsible for the heart beating, taste, desire, fear, thought and even the flick of the sperm’s tale.

Photo: Dan Tucker
The performance area has a number of video screens upon which each scene is set. By not making the screens a flat wall it is able to interact occasionally with the performance from time to time. From apparently sticking to the screens through to jumping down a shoot and reappearing elsewhere, it adds to the overall performance. One really memorable section had the dancers swimming around as sperm and one literally dives into the screen image of the ovum head first, at the point of fertilisation.

Photo: Dan Tucker
The choreography is visually full of action. The 6 performers interpret the story through both intense movement. The energy that they have makes it a high wattage show.  The level of trust that they must have for one another as they fling themselves backwards or leap off the top of the set is tremendous. Frequently they don’t all do they same thing and it is the use of two speeds of action simultaneous that helps convey the kinetic processes. The aerial work helped fill the space and create an extra dimension to the performance.

Photo: Dan Tucker
The soundtrack varies from a pulsating beat through to almost hypnotic trance. The music matches both the action from the dancers and the scenes on the screens. There was always a danger that the visuals behind the action could be more of a distraction rather than complimentary to it. Despite being visually arresting - my eyes stayed on the performers rather than the background such was their vibrancy.

Photo: Dan Tucker
The lighting was used to good effect. The strobe effect in the middle of the action involved very short blasts of light froze the action in mid-jump burning an action shot on my retinas. 

Photo: Dan Tucker
The 70 minute performance combined visuals with ensemble from both dance and circus backgrounds. Adding the scientific element of breaking down life into a series of electrical impulses elevated an entertaining show into a significant event. We look forward to seeing Motionhouse next time they come to the North East.

Review by Stephen Oliver

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