This year’s Brighton Festival has featured powerful dance by two local dance companies – Ceyda Tanc and Three Score Dance – who are breaking new ground in contemporary dance and overturning barriers of gender and age.
A celebration of female empowerment: Ceyda Tanc’s Kizlar
The world première of Ceyda Tanc’s new work Kizlar was performed by her brilliant all-female company to a full Theatre Royal in Brighton last week. A celebration of women, Kizlar (girls) explores aspects of femininity and masculinity in this visually stunning new piece, which challenges traditional gender representation in dance.
Drawing on her Turkish heritage, Ceyda Tanc transforms traditionally male folk dances for female dancers, combining these influences with athletic, contemporary movement. She works collaboratively with her composer, Asta Hiroki: Turkish songs and instruments such as the ney (flute) and oud (lute) are incorporated into a hypnotic, electronic score which underpins and helps to drive the movement.
From the start, the strength and sensuality of the dancers drew me in, as they moved in unison across the stage, exuding confidence and energy. This was exciting, aesthetically-driven dance.
I particularly liked the expressiveness of the synchronised arm movements, making beautiful, intricate patterns and shapes. I also loved the contrast between the powerful, opening sequence and the more delicate movements later on. Shadowy lighting enhanced and reflected the dancers.
One of the most powerful moments was when the dancers gathered at the front of the stage, looking out to the audience, strong in their togetherness. Kizlar has deservedly had glowing reviews.
In addition to the main company, Ceyda has also established a successful range of dance education initiatives, based at The Studio in Brighton. Ceyda Tanc Youth Dance company, for talented young dancers aged 15-19, are four-times U.Dance finalists and performed to acclaim in the Brighton Fringe. There is also a junior company for 12-16 year-olds, so the future for young people’s dance in Brighton is an exciting one. Company dancer Gemma Shrubb runs a weekly contemporary class in conjunction with Three Score Dance, making a great link with older dancers in the community too.
Explorations of experience – Three Score Dance
In contrasts of mood and pace, Three Score Dance explored aspects of life experience and older dance in Rose Until it touched the Sky, performed to a packed audience at the Brighton Dome. The performance consisted of three bold, exciting and contrasting pieces, developed with the dancers for the Brighton Festival by professional choreographers, thanks to Arts Council funding.
A non-professional group of older dancers, Three Score Dance was formed 12 years ago by Saskia Heriz and Christina Thompson, inspired by Sadlers Wells’ Company of Elders. Most of the dancers have no previous dance background or training.
You’re here, You’re here
The evening began with You’re Here, You’re Here, by Rhiannon Faith, well-known for her dance theatre work with communities on the margins. Rhiannon explained the process she used to create this often-surprising piece:
“We have spoken about compassion, care, suffering, dismantling barriers…Together we have co-created this work using autobiographical text, creative tasks and motivation to feel and heal.”
A man and a woman enter a space full of chairs. Gradually, others enter, the women in evening dress. They move or sit in what seems a restless separateness, and despite the best efforts of the welcoming ‘host’ – “You’re here, you’re here” – only interact briefly at first, echoing each-others’ movements, until finally, they come together in a circle.
The use of voice as a thread through and with the dance was a surprise, but highly effective in the brief life stories. One woman tells us, “I leak with anger”, while another kneads bread and talks about the loss of community. The piece threw up many questions and was, in turn, disturbing, moving and humorous.
The second new work was Umbra, by Edd Arnold and Charlie Brittain from the renowned Russell Maliphant Dance Company. A highly lyrical piece, the choreography and light worked together in synergy – a “duet with a light”, as Edd put it afterwards. Lighting designer Ryan Stafford was part of the process from the start.
The dance opens in darkness, with hands stretching upwards, silhouetted by light. Edd explained that this was inspired by the dappled light thrown by trees. Gradually, we see the dancers’ bodies, as they move, bend, stretch and turn expressively across the stage. Towards the end, a single spotlight illuminates the performers, casting shadows and creating a haunting atmosphere.
My personal favourite, I felt that this work developed and extended the dancers’ expressive movements more than the other two dances. A beautiful piece.
The final piece in the triple bill was Obs!, developed with the group by the company’s artistic director, Jason Keenan-Smith. It explores ideas of “listening, witnessing and responding”, using a reverberating score which underpins the dance movements.
In contrast to Umbra, the dancers enter in a blast of light and colour, moving first individually and then gradually coming together in an uplifting and exuberant sequence.
Perhaps coincidentally, the woman who bounces throughout recalled the kneading woman in the first piece – the same dancer, Saskia. She resists being drawn into the others’ collective dance, in a resolute expression of resistance and isolation, though I was willing her to join them.
Three Score Dance are reaching out to a wider number of participants in the community through a growing number of classes and creative opportunities for older people. Local support is clear from the highly appreciative audience and the numbers that stayed behind for the question-and-answer session afterwards. It was, as the dancers put it: “A very big deal.”