Enchantment, joyfulness, playfulness; hypnotic and powerfully evocative. These are the words that come to mind after coming out of Joëlle Pappas’ wonderfully assorted dance programme of works old and new Duet Squared (and more) at the Old Fire Station last Friday, 4th March.

The evening consisted of 5 pieces, with as a prelude the short film Buried Memories from 2004 in which dancer Galina Kalicin danced a trail inspired by stones, bricks and steps through Brookes University’s Harcourt Hill campus on a sunny afternoon.   Tales without Words, set to Satie’s mysterious Trois morceaux en Forme de Poire played live by pianists Diana Hinds and Elizabeth Kreager, was a storming in of 31 young dancers onto the stage, drawing beautiful free lines across the space, some more evocative of a ‘togetherness ensemble’ than others, all accentuating an enchaînement of body movement. Joëlle’s unique ability to bring together young dancers – even those not yet technically sophisticated, but all invariably conveying a real feel of dancing joyfulness from within – never ceases to surprise me.

Inspired by Ravel’s delicate Mother Goose Suite new work Duet Squared is a set of short dances charting a developing relationship and referencing fairy tale narratives, enriched by the projection of the nostalgic imagery of Terry Milne.   Exquisite and expressive young dancers Owen Ridley-DeMonick and Alex Tinney playfully embodied their roles, sensitively accompanied by the two pianists, the music almost acting as the impulse to the stories executed by the dancers. A very graceful choice of choreography, precise and measured footwork, enhanced by the visual expressions of dancers which added much to their balletic conversation.

The second half of the programme felt like a complete change of dance register. In Point à la Ligne, a projected backdrop of geometric rules and drawings from artist Paul Klee’s Pedagogical Sketchbook informed and instructed the movement of a ‘game’ pas de deux, where compositional formulas were translated into dance language by dancers Mariana Camiloti and Anthony Kurt-Gabel. All playfully enriched by the expressive and intimate complicity of the dancers’ body language. A very enjoyable and fast moving set of pieces.

The solo Le Chant des Pierres inspired by the sounds and creative processes of sculptor Barbara Hepworth as notated by Priaulx Rainier and shaped into musical composition by Douglas Young was hypnotic; it really gave the feeling of dance as a tool to mould shapes, the power of dance as a means to create something almost palpable through the curvy movements of the body, conveying the feel of how the soft strokes of a dancing body can generate a creative process. Beautiful and performed with a light touch by Evangelia Kolyra.

The evening closed with the wonderful Mother. Against the background filming of an eruptive volcano, causing disruption and devastation, and paced by Britten’s dramatic Lacrymosas from his Sinfonia da Requiem and War Requiem in a manner evocative of Hitchcock atmospheres, this piece was a physical and intimate dance conversation between a mother and her two daughters, danced by Lizie Saunderson with Melissa Bori and Michaela Doran. The movements conveyed the feeling of loss, and the desperate search for the loved ones, generating a strong and powerful effect.

Marcella Vigneri

7th March 2016