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Union Dance: 'Sensing Change'


by Thea Nerissa Barnes

May 2005 -- Royal Festival Hall, London

Union Dance has always had a predilection for mixing multimedia with contemporary dance, hip-hop, martial arts and streetwise movement expressions in a quest to challenge perceptions of identity. Union Dance professes to explore through movement the perceptions of what it is to live in a culturally diverse society. This current production’s exploration of identity with internationally diverse choreographers, designers and multi-media artists, though, reveals uneasiness in a context that is becoming so syncretic in its expressions that the distinctions that have previously marked specific cultural affiliations have all but disappeared.

Mavin Khoo --"Pure C":  This work begins with a dancer, Jedda Donnelly, positioned on a centre platform; one of four with varied heights off the deck with one white square downstage centre. There are two projector screens upstage. Donnelly moves precariously on the centre platform. There is an uncertainty and unsteadiness within her occasional leg flicks and drops to the platform. Dressed in white against the black cyc and legs, her discomfort is intensified. Donnelly doesn’t seem sure of her place on this platform, turning from side to side and eventually flicking the arms of the costume that contain lights designed by Jessica Bugg.

As the dance progresses the fragmentation of the space is also how the work unfolds; a procession of solos, duets, trios and ensemble with the dancers walking in, taking their place, doing some moves then exiting by walking. The vignettes are arranged on the platforms with intermittent projections by Derek Richards of faces, bodies, and dancers moving through wind sweep fabric. Even the movement vocabulary is a fragmentation of hyper mobile lines, inverted work and arm and leg gestural isolations. Exits and entrances seem only to facilitate changes of platform. A movement phrase is begun on a platform then progresses to another platform. The music by Digital 77 is dense, driven and decisive in its meter and intensity. The music’s assertiveness though was not challenged by the movement or costumes even with their decorative lights.

Rafael Bonachela -- "Silence Disrupted":  Two projector screens on the black cyc show the after shadow of movements performed on stage. The images progress slowly becoming distorted with some residue of the colour and shape of the movement left on the screen. The movement vocabulary is atypical Bonachela performed with same sex entanglements and counter gestural moves. The sequences are somewhere between static tableaux and progressions of multiple gestures. Eventually, lyrical sequencing begins. Within the duets, trios and solos more staccato dynamics with the odd projectile element being either a leg or the body being tossed in the air. There is not much of the inverted work present in this work which Union is known for. Some body popping inferences but not enough to distinguish this work from any other Bonachela work or contemporary dance company. The work a visual feast of well executed movement aptly performed by Union dancers.

Twenty five years on Union is multimedia slick, costuming chic, music urban and very current but is not distinguishably poly culturally expressive with these particular choreographic expressions. The movement vocabularies are clean, conventional, and almost rhetorically contemporary. Not cutting edge, innovative nor visionary; just resilient and steadfast.


Edited by Staff.

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