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High Spin

'Who Dunnit?' and 'Sleepwalker'

Cuttng a caper

by Annie Wells

July 9, 2004 -- Brighton Corn Exchange, Brighton, England.

On the third date of their UK tour, Brighton based dance company High Spin gathered a home crowd at the Corn Exchange to share their latest double-bill of uniquely-styled dance theatre. On either side of the interval this outstanding group of nine (made up of dancers with and without learning disabilities) put the audience on a high with their deeply sensitive and honestly brilliant interpretations of two very different but equally exceptional dance-works.

"Who Dunnit?" and "Sleepwalker" are both products of High Spin’s usual, unusual way of working. The dancers create work collaboratively with the outside choreographers who they invite personally to lead them on each new, specific project. As past collaborations have proved – Liz Aggiss and Billy Cowie of Divas, Laurie Booth, Ben Craft and Rose English – they set their sights high. On this occasion in the choice of respected UK dance-makers Maxine Doyle (First Person Dance Theatre) and Miriam King, no exceptions have been made.

Six of the dancers collaborated with Maxine Doyle to make the uproarious and mad-cap "Who Dunnit?" Inspired by iconic film detectives such as Inspector Clueso and Sherlock Holmes, this “dance mystery” revolves around the disappearance of the flamboyant Princess Rainna’s (Rainna Crudge) huge ruby. Was it the scheming maid (Becki Hodgeson) or the mischievous butler (Ben Pierre)? That was for the useless trio of detectives (Julie Burcham, David Mileman and Dan Shelton) bound fantastically in their ineptitude by costume designer Tina Bicat’s inspired triple mackintosh, to find out.

A vibrant medley of well-selected music (that fittingly included the Pink Panther theme) drove the action apace. Meanwhile each performer exploited the comedy effectively by investing totally in their character’s personality and engaging fully in every expressive moment and physical movement. I won’t give anything away other than to say that "Who Dunnit?" ends with an explosive twist!

In all its ethereal solemnity Miriam King’s "Sleepwalker" made in collaboration with dancers Irene Mensah, Maria Pengally and Andy Saunders was poised perfectly against the upbeat hilarity of the programme’s first half. The trio were entrancing as they danced separately and together through the eight dreamy sections of this conceptual exploration of “presence, movement and imagination”.

Sound (Alan Boorman, Amon Tobin and Colleen), light (Chris Umney), costume and props (China Delius) all merged harmoniously with the motion to make for a deeply sensuous experience - a magical melange that brought to mind all the mysterious shades of darkness and light that colour dream-states.

Through the tinkling of a music-box, birds called to their empty cages. Clocks ticked, alarms rang, sea-tides ebbed and footsteps traipsed through the gravel. While sepia light, tall hats, long-trained dresses and a feathered glove accentuated and extended the soft spiralling reveries on freedom and escape; an eerie fog, thorny twigs and a knarred claw sharpened the horror of nightmares that brought scarecrows thrashing to life.

Edited by Jeff.

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