Review: Empire

UCLU Dance Society waacks another show out of the ball park!


This is the third Dance Society show that The Tab has been to this year, and it’s the third show we’ve come out raving about. From fantastic lighting to catchy music and thrilling choreography, the Dance Society seems to have it all. Mix that with a group of performers that give the impression of being more like a family than a group of students, a massive (and very vocal) fan base and an electric atmosphere, and you know you’re in for a treat!

This year’s big show, ‘Empire’, is set in London of 2083, where an oppressive power has wiped out all culture and prohibited dance. In a ‘We Will Rock You’ style story, groups of underground dancers are fighting the oppression and sticking to their passion. Split into two acts, the show takes us from the dancers’ discovery by the guards of the Empire, to their arrest, punishment and ultimate glorious fight back.

As always there was a wide range of styles on display, and with a grand total of 82 (yes, I counted) dancers performing, there is absolutely no doubting the sheer wealth and variety of talent that the society boasts.

Striking throughout the show were the fantastic costumes worn by the dancers. The gold dresses worn in the contemporary dance ‘Turn to Stone’ (choreographed by Antonia Georgiou), were particularly beautiful, as were the sparkly pick and blue outfits worn by the Bollywood dancers in ‘Mischief in Mumbai’ (Roshni Mistry), both of which were performed in the first act. The second act, however, may well have stolen the costume limelight, thanks to the circus-style outfits worn in the jazz number ‘Welcome to the Circus’ (Charlotte Bowers & Farah-Louisa Omotosho).

The lighting was also a very successful and exciting part of the production. Full credit should be given to lighting designer James Goodhand, whose intelligent mix of colour, light and shadow perfectly framed the dancers on stage, accentuating every movement and really focusing our attention of each individual performer, so it can be forgiven that the blackouts between dances were sometimes too long.

The introductory video which set the scene and played the beginning of the story out before the dancing started was a nice touch, bringing another visual level to the production. However, it could have done with being a couple of minutes shorter. The prison line-up shots of the company on the other hand, were hilarious, particularly the boards each of the performers were holding, telling us of their crimes. A nice, comical touch.

Of the act one dances, ‘Mischief in Mumbai’ was a real crowd pleaser, with wonderful music to match the glittering costumes and mesmerising choreography. ‘Turn the Lights Out’ (Katherine Belessiotis, and ‘Stolen Kisses’ (Aria Antoniadou), both contemporary in style, were just as beautiful as they were moving. Elegant shapes and fantastic storytelling through movement made these two dances really stand out in a show filled to bursting with this style of dance. The show also introduced an entirely new dance style (to me), called waacking, thanks to ‘Express Yourself, Gloria’ (Glennis LaRoe). Think of street dance or popping, but with a bit more glamour, more femininity and “ Madonna vogue” posing, and more of a disco vibe. A style that doesn’t just have a novel name, but novel movement as well. Of course, a Dance Society show would not be a Dance Society show if it did not end its first half with a bang, and hip-hop number ‘Rebels Inc’ (Daniel Ratnaraj & Jonathan Kha), more than did the production credit. Fantastic movement, pace changes and expressive choreography left us rather disappointed that there was going to be a break.

After a brilliant first act, the performers really stepped up and delivered a show stopping second half to the production. ‘Welcome to the Circus’ was a visual treat. The costumes, as already mentioned, were fantastic, and were perfectly suited to the quirky, humorous choreography that they accompanied. Of the rest, the contemporary ‘Brutal Hearts’ (Anna Heath) made fantastic use of torches, serving as a true visual delight, and hip-hop number ‘Addiction’ (Martin Siu) seemed popular amongst the very vocal audience. The real highlight of the whole evening however, was ‘The Past Seven Years’ (Chiara Petrosellini). A highly energetic and lively contemporary funk piece with innovative and breathtakingly exciting choreography, which made great use of tables and books as props, and used a wonderful variety of storytelling conventions to portray students at the UCL library during closing time. ‘Deal With It’, the street dance finale choreographed by society President Glennis LaRoe was another of the highlights, and served as a truly fitting ending to the show. Slick, punchy and thrilling choreography danced with energy, passion and attitude, it left us in absolutely no doubt of the story’s ending and message: ‘nothing will ever stop us dancing’.

UCLU Dance Society’s ‘Empire’ is being performed at the Bloomsbury Theatre on 7th, 8th & 9th March.
Doors open at 7pm, performances start at 7.30pm.
2hr running time (approx.) including 15min interval.
£5 UCL students
ALMOST SOLD OUT: book the theatre box office, by phone on 0207888822, or online at http://http://www.thebloomsbury.com/event/run/1765event/run/1765

Photography by Zhao Haoyang