LEORA TARATULA-LYONS is disappointed by a dance production distracted by its own ‘hubristic’ ambitions
ADC Theatre, 7.45pm, Tue22nd – Sat 26th January, Tue & Wed £8/£6, Thurs-Sat £10/£8
A grainy image of masked dancers in the snow. The tapping of shoes to the familiar chimes of Ennio Morricone’s ‘Ectasy of Gold’, altered by electro. These are the inexplicable yet enticing beginnings of Cambridge University Contemporary Dance Workshop’s Enigma. But the hopes of an audience seduced by the promise of experimental choreography, artistic vision and original physical technique were soon dashed by an incongruous use of video and a patchwork of confused ambitions that distracted from the dancing.
Enigma does ‘bring diversity to the Cambridge stage’, but the merits of the dancing itself were sadly not enough to excuse the disconcerting musical choices or the ill-fated assertion that the audience were to be treated to the ‘best dancing talent’. This is due to the fact that an uncomfortably large proportion of the group dances were plagued by awkward and unoriginal movement and a lack of cohesion with regards to timing, musicality, and projection. Some of the more awkward movements threatened to be cringe worthy, particularly in the case of torso ripples and undulating spines, ill-placed on the compact ADC stage.
Despite a wide range of styles and great potential for invigorating and unusual accompaniment choices, more often than not the chosen music was both uninspired and unoriginal, featuring such saccharine favourites as Dirty Dancing‘s ‘I’ve Had the Time of my Life’ and the vamped up ‘Sugarplum Fairy’ from the film StreetDance 3D. Where this genre or style of dance reigned, so did the mulchy musical editing. This only accentuated the regurgitated shadows of Diversity and the like.
The pace picked up in the second half but so did the treble. Any excitements found in the slicker, more exuberant numbers or the novelty of Michael Jackson, hair extensions and topless men, were muddled by the stirrings of tinnitus. The Flamenco piece was tantalizing but only in the sense that it promised everything and delivered little. Some of the more enjoyable moments of lyrical and contemporary movement were enhanced by minimal yet effective lighting. There were even vignettes of potential real intrigue, but these are only glimpses, promptly stolen away by a lack of cohesion that extends beyond any individual performance.
The choreography failed largely due to the production’s hubristic ambition. Enigma‘s greatest strengths – the scope of movement, genres explored, its mutability – were continually undermined by the sensation of each routine falling into a sporadic and baffling melange, yearning for a central theme to tie it all together. The opening night was greeted with an over-eager audience, perhaps due to over-excited family members rather than the attendance of true dance enthusiasts.
Leaving the auditorium, I felt encouraged by the acknowledgement of so many dance styles and surprised that there was so much in a town where dance seems highly overlooked. This however was a speck of optimism casually blown away by the disappointment of an uninspiring evening.