DANCE | Area Jeune Ballet and VERVE at The Riley Theatre

Area Jeune Ballet | ‘life perfectly in balance…’ SAM, choreographed by Jose Agudo

An evening of striking contemporary choreography created in Geneva and Leeds and performed at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance’s Riley Theatre proves richly imaginative and sensual. Words: NEIL MUDD

The Riley Theatre is the performance venue of the Northern School of Contemporary Dance in the heart of Chapeltown. A listed former synagogue, it has the impressive high vaulted ceiling and elaborately carved wooden pews to prove it.

This evening it welcomes Geneva’s Area Jeune Ballet and the NSCD’s own postgraduate company VERVE in a richly imaginative showcase of sensual power and strength.

The first of two performances by Area Jeune Ballet, Kiss & Fly is Gil Carlos Harush‘s time-lapse montage of fugitive moments which draws on his hectic air-transit schedule between Geneva and Madrid.

Six dancers – their bodies contoured in diaphanous burnt-orange – converge, peel off in coruscating circuits then converge once more; their long-limbed movements are tempered with sharp angled turns; their bodies arch and stretch in beautifully described parabolas.  

A series of fleeting snapshots – Polaroids from the edge if you like – Kiss & Fly registers on the imagination then fades : its freeze-frame sculptures, looping three-legged grotesques and fumbling opportunistic lovers are glimpsed for a moment, then snatched away.

Noa Zuk and Ohad Fishof’s structurally ambitious Shutdown has been performed here before, but the jerky electro intensity with which VERVE attack the piece bears repeating.

Taking a repeated fifteen second phrase and varying it, the work fuses contemporary movement with jazz and street smarts, the thirteen strong company forever flirting with disaster as the dancers weave around one another with breath taking assurance and elasticity.

The highlight of tonight’s programme though is undoubtedly the staggeringly beautiful SAM, which derives inspiration from the Sanskrit term Saṃsāra meaning Wheel of Life. Choreographer Jose Agudo‘s deeply satisfying ritual celebration is performed with subtlety and skill by an augmented Area Jeune Ballet.

Agility and strength are pushed to the limits as the dancers strive to embody the work’s sense of hope and renewal. The movement is elegant and rhythmic; a blur of limbs becomes a pulsing flight as first one, then another break free. Marion Schmid’s sensuous costumes and William Ballerio’s figurative lighting are perfectly in balance. It is a work directed at the mind which whispers to the soul.

In Judaism dance is an expression of joy which binds together a community. With its programme of performances, the Riley Theatre at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance simply continues that long tradition.

More VERVE on Culture Vulture