I AM, Blue Elephant Theatre - Dance Review

Making a name for itself as a magnet for high calibre productions, the Blue Elephant Theatre is THE venue for contemporary dance in south London. Its latest event which showcased LCP Dance Theatre offered something extraordinary.

While there are theatre companies with their own particular ethos, there aren't to my knowledge that many dance companies with a specific focus – in the case of LCP Dance Theatre, using live performance and film to raise awareness of human rights violations. Formed in 2006 by artistic director Joanna Puchala, the dance company boasts an international troop of artistes.

LCP's I AM (which will also be performed in Edinburgh later this month) is a multimedia dance production that seeks to explore the challenges facing victims of human trafficking on their road to recovery and tell their stories of re-discovering their stolen identities. It's inspired by the true story of a couple who fell in love in their teens and transcended the subsequent abuse they encountered when they found each other again in their seventies. This leads to them being able to finally forgive their abusers and reintegrate back into normal society.

The show deploys visual and aural effects to complement the action on stage. Having said that, there are parts of the performance that are sans-media, where Puchala is confident in letting the choreography speak for itself.

Dressed in similar flowing attire, but of different hues, the dancers (four women and a man) oscillate between concurrent and asynchronous movement. The theatrical use of long stretches of fabric lit from behind was a nice touch, with the dancer raised above it 'swimming' for freedom.

Aiding the five-strong group,  the images and dialogue played contextualised  the dancing performed. The most eerie and perturbing of these opened the evening, when the voice of a male actor was juxtaposed with footage of various women. The dialogue suggested an attempt to be romantic, but it was soon apparent that it was a standard line to prey on the feelings of women and emotionally blackmail them into selling their bodies to others. It beggars belief that such coercion still exists, but ultimately, that what makes the dancers' emancipation later so beautiful to watch.

© Michael Davis 2015

PERFORMERS: Miranda-Chantal Ode, Rachel Elderkin, Deana Indraccolo, Gennaro Lasco, Joanna Puchala.

I AM initially ran at the Blue Elephant Theatre on 7-8 August 2015. It will appear in Edinburgh at  Spotlites (22 Hanover Street, Edinburgh, EH2 2EP) from 23-31 August 2015.

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