Imaginate 2016: Dance review round-up

The Jury, Go Get Em' Kid and Constellations prove contemporary dance isn’t just for grown-ups

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Dance at Imaginate 2016 - review

The full five stars for Aracaladanza's Constellations / Pedro Arnay

Imaginate Festival, Edinburgh’s international children’s festival, wrapped up on Sun 5 Jun after eight days of dance, storytelling and puppetry. This year's programme featured 14 shows from nine countries, as well as a new, free Family Fringe weekend at the National Museum of Scotland. The dance element of Imaginate, which included works by Hege Haagenrud company, Tamsyn Russell Dance and Aracaladanza proved contemporary dance isn’t just for grown-ups.

The Jury ●●●●

Dance at Imaginate 2016 - review

Hege Haagenrud company / credit: Siren Lauvdal
It comes at just the right moment. A voiceover that perfectly echoes what many children in the audience are already thinking: ‘This is boring.’ On stage, contemporary dancers Hedda Rivrud and Marie Male Kalstø from Norway are delivering some beautiful movement, but not quite dynamic enough to capture the young minds before them.

Then everything turns on its head. The voiceover is replaced by a series of children onscreen, all of whom want to share their opinions about the choreography they’ve just witnessed. ‘I want more colour and nice dresses’, says one girl. ‘Can we have monsters, guns and more blood?’ request some of the boys. The gender stereotyping is remarkable, yet out of the mouth of babes it comes.

Quick to respond, the dancers give the children what they want, and the next 45 minutes is filled with hilarious sequences that have the audience squealing with delight. Until finally, the whole thing calms down when one young girl demonstrates the gentle choreography she would like to see, and the dancers mirror her onstage.

It’s a beautiful moment that proves it’s distinctly possible to give a young audience what they want yet retain artistic integrity.

Go Get ‘em Kid ●●●

Dance at Imaginate 2016 - review

Tamsyn Russell Dance / credit: Eoin Carey
A sea of t-shirts litter the stage, loomed over by a giant one depicting two young girls, hanging as a backdrop. Instantly intrigued, we wait to see what dancers Tamsyn Russell and Adrienne O'Leary are going to do with them all.

As a choreographer, New Zealand-born, Scotland-based Russell has increasingly proved to have an ear for great music, an eye for strong dancers, and a brain for creating clever, dynamic choreography. Yet despite having elements of all three here, Go Get ‘em Kid struggles to deliver more than a few memorable moments.

The t-shirts are pulled on and off, bundled up and pushed around the stage. At times Russell and O’Leary feel like sibling rivals, trying to out-do each other. Then they’re friends, suggesting how next to have fun in their t-shirt playground.

Occasionally the inventive potential of their bodies and surroundings pays off: a segment where their matching long, dark locks are pulled forward to obscure their face, turning them into hairy monsters. Or when both women climb inside the same stretched t-shirt and move around the space.

Throughout, an eclectic song selection, created in all parts of the world is a brilliant introduction to a musical life outside the pop charts. And Russell and O’Leary are both engaging performers.

But ultimately, this feels like a show waiting to happen, for clever moments to be teased out, and for a reason for being to emerge.

Constellations ●●●●●

Dance at Imaginate 2016 - review

Aracaladanza / credit: Pedro Arnay
Aracaladanza It’s hard to imagine who wouldn’t respond to this fun, colourful and ever-changing show from Madrid-based company Aracaladanza. Inspired by the work of visual artist Joan Miró, Constellations re-invents itself time and again, until you’re wondering what could possibly come next.

As we sit in darkness, a single torchlight suddenly appears – greeted by screams of excitement from the young crowd. Then another, then another, until five lights shine out at us. From there, a billowing black curtain fans out across the floor, eventually worn as a skirt by one of the dancers.

Then we’re off, into a world of interactive animation, giant coloured knitted balls that are ridden across the stage, a dancer with a helium balloon for a head, giant beanbags filled with bright scarves and much, much more.

Pitched at ages 5–11, in truth Constellations hits a far wider demographic. The toddler in front of me couldn’t keep her eyes off the colourful shapes and ever-shifting movement. The adults around me were completely charmed, and the groups of primary school children remained engaged throughout.

If you know Miró’s work, there’s an extra layer of cleverness here that just keeps on giving – but if you don’t, the coming together of set, costume and choreography still grabs your attention and refuses to let go.

The Jury

A dance shaped by children. With a battle between boys and girls to decide what happens on stage.

Go Get 'em Kid

Exciting new choreographer Tamsin Russell presents her first work for younger audiences, featuring over 100 t-shirts and lots of energy. Ages 6+.

Constellations

Multi-award winning company Aracaladanza consistently delights audiences throughout Europe with their extraordinarily magical dance theatre made especially for children and families. In Constellations, the surreal dream-like quality of artist Joan Miró is the inspiration with bright reds, yellows, blues and greens. We…

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