C-A-G-E-D performed by  Thomas Page Dances was a thought-provoking performance from a young choreographer who clearly has some strong ideas, and a company of very capable dancers.

In terms of the tone of the movement, there were some effective sections including the very start of the piece, and much of the second half – these showed a contrast between sharp, almost robotic accents and sinuous, natural movements.  These were, for me, the most interesting moments: the choreography developing organically and looking almost improvised, rather than the more gymnastic cartwheels and rolls at other points which felt a little engineered and out of place.  There was a very clear sense of strong emotions being portrayed, in particular panic, anxiety, a palpable tension, and loneliness and isolation. This was particularly effective when there were several dancers on stage, but with barely any interaction occurring: this made the audience aware of how it is possible to be completely disconnected while in a group of people, and raised questions on how groups interact, and how easy it is for people to be marginalised and ignored, even when in distress.

Although these emotive characteristics were certainly effective, at times the characters seemed a little too confident, especially with the direct outward gaze which was utilised throughout most of the performance. They also didn’t have the sense of lethargy and despondence which one might normally associate with those who are oppressed. Perhaps this was a deliberate statement; it certainly made one wonder about the many ways in which oppression can manifest.

It would also have been interesting to see more of a narrative played out, particularly in the first half which felt more like a series of vignettes describing different emotions, rather than a developing story. Perhaps an exploration of the role of the oppressor would also have given some context and given more of a feeling of a controlling force – this was hinted at occasionally when dancers interacted in a way which described a power struggle.

The second half also seemed to bring the roles of oppressor and oppressed together into one body which was an imaginatively-explored idea. The original music by Simone Sistarelli created a more varied and unexpected sound world in this section, and the structure worked well. There were effective small details: for example a particular set of movements being repeated by soloists and groups throughout the second half gave a sense of ritual, the comfort of repetition, almost a nod to the idea of the prisoner pacing their cell.

Some parts of the choreography were uncomfortable and provocative, pushing boundaries of what an audience is comfortable watching – this was refreshing and showed Page’s willingness to take a risk, and I look forward to seeing him develop this further. I certainly came away with some questions, particularly about the two roles of the oppressor and the oppressed.

Jess Ryan-Phillips

9th July 2017

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