Illegal Dance: Some point in the future when dancing is illegal, the Entity governs and dystopia rules. At a time like the present where we see images of oppression and uprising on the rolling news channels every day, it was only a matter of time before it activated a switch in Avant Garde’s artistic director, Tony Adigun’s mind.
The concept of Illegal Dance is ambitious, merging dance with advanced projection techniques and, with the writing talent of Inua Ellams, spoken word. Normally dance shows that meddle with a script limit the amount of speech (or use voiceovers) and let the movement communicate with the audience. But if that was the case this wouldn’t be avant garde, would it?
This is dystopia, and where there’s dystopia there’s ruin: Avant Garde Dance chose a naked stage during its East London Dance show, exposing the wings and meaning dancers had nowhere to hide travelling on and off stage. Instead the ensemble made use of all the theatre space, with some dancers present in places off stage and moving to main stage when cued. Scaffolding with canvasses doubled up as both moveable walls and projection screens which really makes you appreciate the accuracy of stage choreography: vignettes between the dancing explained the finer elements of the back story, projected onto accurately placed screens.
Costume played a key role in telling story of Illegal Dance: Domineering Enforcers present in the audience could be spotted after interval, while the dancers playing the oppressed looked like they were Mad Max survivors.
The ‘immersive experience’ is a gamble that will vary in relation to different audiences, if they’re dance fans or theatre goers. Gauging the reaction of Stratford Circus’ audience, some of which I can assume was made up of Avant Garde fans and regular Dance Currents season ticket holders, the impact wasn’t as big.
Criticisms aside other London dance companies haven’t dared to attempt something this ambitious, and fingers crossed, should the show do further runs will gain the credit it deserves. With so many other hip hop dance companies out there to rip off, Avant Garde went the extra mile to live up their motto of “innovate, never replicate.”
Video: Illegal Dance viral
The concept of Illegal Dance is daring and the scope for where it could go is big, and the effort Tony Adigun and the company has put in to pull it off (viral videos, stickers, Facebook profiles) You can really appreciate the combination of dance, spoken word, video projection and soundtrack – and did I mention the choreography, as ever, is fantastic.
However, there’s a lot to pack into the production and the end felt quite abrupt. With any luck Illegal Dance will tour beyond its planned two dates at Stratford Circus and Dance Exchange allowing it to smooth out any stops and develop as a full production.