Inter Pares Project, Blue Elephant Theatre Review

This is my first review for a dance piece of theatre, which ignited my inner (very deep down) prima ballerina! I was thrilled to go to the Blue Elephant Theatre to watch two contemporary dancers, Julie Havelund-Willett and Agnese Lanza perform their self-choreographed show, Inter Pares Project.

As the audience were slowly drifting into their seats, the two dancers sat on the stairs in the aisle and started to observe and commentate on us. “You just turned to look at me. Your shoulders are touching. Your legs are crossed.” This immediately gave us a sense of what we were going to be watching tonight. An improvised recreation of the human condition in the style of contemporary dance.

After this, the two emerged from their seats and proceeded to trace the outline of the audience on projector paper. This was then added to the projector and formed a huge jagged line onto the back wall of the theatre. The pair then cleverly tried to imitate this outline by walking first, and then running around the stage. I thought this section of the piece was intelligent, well executed and I could see that the pair clearly had a lovely rapport with each other.

We then moved to a choreographed sequence accompanied by some stunning operatic music (I wish I knew who sang it!) This segment of the piece involved lots of fluidity in their floor work but little eye contact and team work. The movements they were performing were at times dynamic, and I could see some lovely influences such as Martha Graham and Alvin Ailey, but I found that some of the momentum was lost because of a lack of emotion behind it.

I’m going to get technical here, but when we listen to opera, we often have the overwhelming feeling that we are going to cry. This is because the larynx tries to recreate the sound that it is hearing and, in doing this, the aryepiglottic muscle tilts forward giving us the feeling of a frog in our throat. I’m going into this much detail because I wanted to see some raw emotion from the two dancers in front of me. I wanted them to be affected by the music as much as the audience was. Instead we got blank faces and often, eyes staring at the floor. As my dance teacher once told me “There’s nothing interesting on the floor!” As dance is possibly the highest form of expression, I would have liked to have seen just that - some expression on their faces.

The moment we had all been waiting for! The recording they took at the top of the show started playing and the pair began recreating their words with their own individual movements. This clever and clear form of improvisation was lovely to watch, especially as the recording stopped and they started to try and repeat what they had just done. There was a lovely moment of a hug between them both, timed so perfectly and without saying a word to each other. I particularly enjoyed the end of this sequence which involved the two with their backs to the wall and a look to each other. I really got a sense of their friendship and connection as dancers.

Overall I had an enjoyable evening at the Blue Elephant Theatre, but there seemed to be a small something missing from this production. I would have loved to have seen some more diversity in the movements - the constant repetition seemed monotonous at times - and I was desperate to watch the dancers enjoying themselves! If Havelund-Willett and Lanza made a stylistic choice in their blank, emotionless faces, then I apologise but it didn’t quite work for me. This is not to undermine them as dancers! The two worked beautifully together and have a solid concept on which to build and improvise each night.

(c) 2016 Molly Miller

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