Mozart, Metallica and melodrama – JESSICA PATTERSON strictly evaluates the ADC’s attempts to come dancing.

ADC ADC Mainshow Break-Dancing Dance Doris Day Jessica Patterson mainshow Metallica

ADC Theatre, 25th-29th January, 7.30 pm, £10-6

Directed by Emily Curtis-Harper

[Rating: 4/5]

I am no stranger to the see-saw between pleasure and extreme boredom that the title ‘dance show’ often denotes. Throughout school I subjected my parents to this annual torture and have been made to understand that ‘not everyone is a lover of dance’. When I tried to persuade him that going to watch Inspired, this year’s ADC dance show, would be ‘fun’, the sardonic expression of my reluctant companion was all too familiar.

Even I, an enthusiast for that most acquired of theatrical tastes, contemporary dance, had my doubts. Particular bug-bears for me include choreographers’ perennial insistence that a dance constitutes ‘acting out’ the words to a vomit-inducing love song, or that clutching your heart with a pained expression conveys ‘meaning’. But then, everyone has their own tastes when it comes to dance, and fortunately the variety of Inspired was such that there was enough to satisfy a vast spectrum of preferences.

Photographs by Claude Schneider and Duncan Grisby

In general there was a problem of style as too many of the dances exhibited choreographic cliché and unchanging dynamics. In particular ‘I Remember’ had something of the cringe factor about it, set to the music of Damian Rice and featuring the dreaded ‘do an earnest face and reach out longingly to the audience’ move – the dancers themselves, though, were excellent.

However, there were some definite winners. ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’, performed by a trio of teenage boys (one with the most excellent stage name ‘soopa noodle’) and based on a scene from Donnie Darko, was one. The genius of this Michael Gove defying piece was not just in its brilliant break-dancing moves, but in its flawless transitions and quirky style. The rock n’ roll numbers excited the biggest audience response. If you can’t enjoy spandex, American power guitar and gravity-defying acrobatics then you do not have a soul.

A few pieces occupied that uncomfortable middle ground between genius and plain weirdness. I really enjoyed ‘Ailanthus’, by Hannah McClure Chalut; a contemporary dance piece that beautifully enhanced the subtle idiosyncrasies of its two very talented performers. It made a thought provoking change from the standard positions and presented some original forms and motifs (as I wrote on my programme: like hatching baby dinosaurs, but in a good way). This was clearly a matter of taste though; when I looked enthusiastically to my friend he was pretending to fall asleep.

On the other side of experimental was a piece called ‘Interrogation’, which, set to a musical mash-up of Mozart and the ‘children’s choir of radio Sofia’, was like a weird dance off between the composer himself (played by a girl in a tail coat) and a sexy biblical Salomé. Only later did I realise that it was meant to be a comment on ‘Iraq…A woman falsely accused…An inspector tenaciously convinced.’ I think I preferred Mozart in a dance-off.

Despite a few genuinely distressing experiences, the show was a pleasure to watch. Some performances lifted the overall standard of ability from good to excellent. Janet French, in ‘Division’ remains one of the most elegant and disarmingly captivating dancers I have seen. Likewise, Zuzka Masarova approached every second that she was on stage with attack and enthusiasm to great dramatic effect. My initial trepidation at a piece of street dance set to the dulcet tones of Bieber was eased by impressive technical ability. The rest of my complaints could be put down to first night nerves. There were a few ‘rabbit in headlight’ expressions, compounded by the difficulty of some routines. On the technical side, the music should have been at lot louder for the energetic pieces, but the lighting was well balanced.

This was an incredibly enjoyable experience that ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous and I recommended it to everybody. But a word to the wise: not a good idea for a first date. There were a lot of good-looking half-naked dancers and I’m not sure all of the audience were clapping because they appreciate the finer points of the choreographic arts.