Broken‘, the latest production from the Motionhouse dance company, is both visually stunning and tremendously exciting. With swaggering ambition, artistic director Kevin Finnan mixes the infinite with the intimate, taking us from the dawn of life on Earth to the present day, when it all comes crashing down in spectacular fashion.
The choreography, by Finnan along with the six members of the company and Claire Benson, requires the dancers to work as a unit. Rather than depriving the audience of flashy solos, this approach brings a sense of community to the scenes, which draws in our sympathy and enhances the drama of the show. The dancers usually work in pairs, particularly in the early sequence when the female dancers climb onto the male to become a single life form struggling out of the sea and anxiously surveying the unknown land.
The opening sequences of the dance have a water motif. As the audience enters the theatre, projections of primitive underwater life forms glisten on the rear wall with the eerie score, by Finnan and Sophy Smith, suggesting depth and isolation. The opening dance featuring the full company has their movements timed to eruptions of water in the background. The restraint and discipline displayed by the dancers contrasts with the spectacle of the show. The formation of fossils is illustrated by the dancers hanging upside down, completely immobile, on poles.
The digital imagery by Karlos Gomez and Imannol Garaizabal makes a vital contribution to the success of the show. The powerful sequence in which three trapped miners flirt with, and possibly are seduced by, angels of death is preceded by their descent into the cavern. The dancers burst through the walls of the cavern and plunge down poles and we are able to share their feeling of vertigo and loss of control as the visual projections of the cave walls go flying past behind them at breakneck speed. During the stunning earthquake that ends the show, the images of apartment buildings tilt and twist in perfect time to the movements of the dancers, enhancing the sense of chaos and danger.
Broken is a rare achievement – a meditation upon the development of life and the interaction between people and the planet that is also thrilling and a wonderful demonstration of the art of dance.
Broken is at the Lowry until 29 January.
– Dave Cunningham