‘Cu-cuco’, ‘Nubes’ - Aracaladanza
‘Spill’ - Shuan Parker
mac, Birmingham; May 6, 2012
Birmingham’s mac (Midlands Arts Centre) was a hive of activity over the IDFB’s Family Weekend. The sight of the sun, a rare event during this wet Spring, surely helped, as the centre had a real buzz about it when I popped along on the Sunday. There were plenty of activities going on including workshops for the very young, older children and families, formal and informal ‘pop-up’ performances, and associated drawing and other craft activities.
Isn’t there a saying something along the lines of, “Somewhere within us all, there always exists a child”? After sitting through and thoroughly enjoying two performances by Spanish company Aracaladanza, renowned for creating shows for infants, children and families, all I can say is that it must surely be true.
“Cu-Cuco” is aimed at the very young. Facing the ‘stage’ in Foyle Studio was a host of cushions large and small, plus one row of regular chairs at the back. Dancers Natali Camolez and Raquel de la Plaza Humera gave us 25 minutes of sheer, unmitigated delight. The colourful and engaging dance incorporates all sizes of umbrellas, magic lights, plastic bags that float in the air, sets that double as costumes, and a pair of the most delightfully expressive sock puppets you will ever see. It was a treat for all the sense and kept the youngsters - and us oldies - enthralled throughout. If ever you needed proof that dance aimed at young audiences can be sophisticated, this was it.
Nubes (8). Aracaladanza in Nubes (Clouds). Photo Eduardo García Gonzalez.JPG [ 49.28 KiB | Viewed 2753 times ]
“Clouds”, usually presented under its Spanish title “Nubes”, is aimed at whole families. Inspired by the paintings of René Magritte it presents a series of magical, surrealist images. How many dance pieces have giant clouds, smaller clouds that turn into sheep, ballerinas that sit atop stepladders, doors through which dancers come and go but that seem to lead nowhere, and giant eight-foot tall dancers juggling oversize apples? It was an absolute delight from start to finish, but two scenes really stand out above all. First is when the cast appear as eight foot tall dinner-suited men, but with huge bulbs where the head should be. The dance that followed, especially after they unscrew and remove their ‘heads’, was clever enough on its own, but when the now headless figures suddenly produce canes and launch into an all too brief pastiche of “Top Hat” it becomes utterly brilliant. And if you want hilarious, the dance in diving flippers to Vivaldi will take some beating. Magritte would doff one of his famous bowler hats to the madness of it all - and yes, they are in the piece too.
Between the two Aracaladanza shows there was time to catch “Spill”, specially created for the Festival by Australian Shaun Parker. It’s designed to be danced in children’s playgrounds, using whatever equipment is there as a set. For once this Spring the sun was out as everyone set off on a procession to the performance site. It seemed to me that this should have been a jolly parade, but it was oddly muted. Despite the staff giving out a few noise making weapons, banging drums and waving flags, it was all rather quiet.
The piece itself was described as a “cheeky celebration of the child within.” Largely parkour-based the four performers threw themselves around the swings, slides and climbing frames. I’m sure the rather wet and potentially slippy ground contributed, but it all rather lacked excitement. Sure there were a few neat moves and swinging round the various bars, it all too often looked like hard work. Supposed near misses were not ever close, and an overly aggressive fight seemed strangely out of place. Being in the great outdoors, there were plenty of passers-by. Many people stopped to watch, but many also went on their way again after a few minutes, which rather said it all.Aracaladanza’s “Clouds” (“Nubes”) continues on tour to Dublin (Pavillion Theatre), May 12-13; Ipswich (Jerwood Dance House), May 16-19; Buxton (Opera House), May 29; and Lincoln (Drill Hall), May 31.