The Old Market is a superbly modern venue. Its welcoming staff creating a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. The bar area is one of a kind, branches hanging from above and tress growing in random spots of the room. The cloakroom had been temporarily converted. Used instead by a performer, conveying deep and hidden meanings that I was admittedly unable to grasp. A woman dressed in white overalls sat in front of a projector that beamed various blocks of colours onto her face. As the colours changed every thirty seconds or so, so did the woman’s position. All of this happened in complete silence, captivating the small crowd that had taken notice on their way to the loos. Bizarre, yet also a fantastic way to start begin the Swallowsfeet Dance Festival.
The first official piece was When You’re Smiling, choreographed by Jan Möllmer and performed by German dancer Uwe Brauns. Situated in the street just outside of the venue, it drew out the crowd to make a semicircle around Brauns. Old school music played as he slipped his hands into a pair of shoes on the ground. There were two pairs in total. A hand in one from each creating image of two individuals dancing together in the moonlight. Every movement was intricately calculated, all building this surreal fantasy. It was a moving piece that finished to enthusiastic applause as Brauns morosely walked back into The Old Market.
Next was Current Biopsy located in the bar. Choreographed by dancer Alice Labant, there was an exotic combination of guitar and interpretive dance. Labrant wore a series of skirts that were regularly changed throughout, probably to express a hypnogogic message. While her brother strummed ethereal chords on his guitar, a mysterious old lady painted abstract pictures on the side. It is unclear what her broad strokes on the paper were meant to represent, but they added a new dimension to the performance.
Labrant danced in perfect sync with the soundtrack. Increasing in speed and ferocity as the music became more dramatic. And at one point, she unexpectedly threw an item of clothing into the crowd, hitting my friend in the face: humorous to say the least. But it was collected afterwards with a polite apology. Current Biopsy was a surreal piece that truly entranced the audience and is certainly open to interpretation.
AJIMA followed, situated in the main stage area of The Old Market. This piece by Marc Gabriel was most memorable of the night. Centred around the different dimensions to one’s life. The performance started with the acting out of an online yoga tutorial, leading immediately into a disco sequence. The juxtaposition between the public and personal life was a sublime contrast, and one that continued throughout AJIMA. The provocative message behind the choreography was how expectation can shape us, and how the views of others can have a hugely powerful influence on our personalities. Then again, it was an interpretive performance that could mean anything to the individual viewer.
In addition, a segment of light-hearted audience participation had members of the crowd had giving personal items over to the performer beforehand: a passport, lipstick and a leather glove. These were included in the movements of the dancer, and added an original element. AJIMA will remain in people’s minds for a long time to come.
Walking orderly back to the bar, we awaited A Blighted Life by Gavin Coward. Three dancer wore face veils and high heels, standing in three corners around the performance area. They were accompanied by three large tyres, used as props to make their choreography more dynamic. The exploration of different perspectives towards homosexuality in various cultures, meant fun exotic music.
Political speeches encouraging the shunning of homosexuals cut through the music. Affecting the facial expressions of the dancers and their movements. There was great attention to detail. Also, there were dramatic reactions from the crowd when tyres were dropped and when the performers kissed. Despite mournful notes throughout, due to the message of discrimination, overall the piece promoted hope and a liberal future. Most of all, A Blighted Life was an audience favourite. With people clapping along and spreading a true sense of joy.
In conclusion, it has been another successful year for the Swallowsfeet Dance Festival. Topical, meaningful messages and exceptional producers were combined to create a night that has left a deep impression.