“The psychology of oppression is thus self-inflicted in a constant struggle where man hypocritically creates standards of life that they themselves perpetually contradict” – Duane Campbell

C-A-G-E-D is the recent, ambitious choreographic debut from aspiring choreographer Thomas Page. Originally from Oxford – having taken class with Lunas Dance Project – Page is now a contemporary dance student at the renowned Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance.  However, despite relocating, Page stays committed to the Oxford dance scene by commuting back to his hometown at the weekend to teach dance at Authentic Performance Academy.

Thomas is an individual with guts and motivation, having approached the conservatoire’s Student Union at the beginning of his first year, asking for support in producing a full length dance work to explore his interest in the psychology of oppression. It was on 16th and 17th June that this ambition manifested itself in reality, and Page presented his work in the Laban Studio Theatre, costumed and lit. It was performed by a quintet of diverse and mesmerising dancers – all students of Trinity Laban aside from Iona McGuire, a prospective student of London Contemporary Dance School.

The piece itself is an eclectic ensemble of ideas that form a series of vignettes demonstrating oppression’s effects upon groups and individuals. A melange of solos, duets and group work showcases the group’s abilities, and in particular the solo work demonstrates Page’s propensity to work with individuals to bring their personal movement styles to his repertoire. Despite the aesthetic appeal of the solo work, the most successful moments in conveying the theme of oppression are when the entire cast assemble to form intricate networks of limbs, intertwining arms and legs creating a restrictive bodily web.

Standout moments of C-A-G-E-D include an ironic, sexually charged routine to Missy Elliot’s Ching-a-ling which satirically parodies the oppressive, misogynistic portrayals of females in the media. This feminist approach to exploring oppression is supported by the presence of a decapitated mannequin (whom the cast have affectionately nicknamed Sylvia) which the cast manipulate and transport around the stage. The dancer’s relationship with the dummy is limited and requires further definition to justify it (or her?) as an intrinsic part of the piece.

Overall C-A-G-E-D is a brave debut with plenty of guts and motivated vigour behind it.  It displays moments of inspiration and promise, yet still appears to be in its early stages of development.  At times, it feels as though the physical ambitions overtake the thematic concerns of the work; however with distillation, Page will have created a refined, intriguing piece of choreography.  One can only wait in anticipation to see where he will take it; with talks of another showcase on the horizon, and applications for dance festivals, who knows where we will be seeing this Oxford-born choreographer’s work next?

Emily May

30th June 2016