Jennifer Osei-Mensah reviews Dance society’s Bloomsbury show, Illusion, performed from the 7th-9th March.
UCL Dance Society’s annual Bloomsbury show, this year entitled Illusion, was, as always, brilliant. The show asks us ‘how can we dive into the world of illusion but still stay in touch with reality?’ The theme was interpreted very widely, from a trippy contemporary piece involving glow in the dark body suits, to a wholesome Stomp piece based on chameleons.
We were pulled in from the very first dance with performers serving face – dealing with the American Dream and the struggles that minorities face in the illusion of equality. From there we moved into a tap-ballet combo set to the Atonement soundtrack, a Salsa piece, a break dance piece dealing with the theme of shadows – one of Dance Society’s greatest strengths is its diversity, in terms of the dancers on stage, the styles they are skilled in, and the messages they convey.
Stand out dances included Bad Liar, choreographed by Kate Chistyakova, a contemporary duo with rhythmic gymnastic elements, that was visually and technically stunning, with flawlessly executed lifts and a ribbon section : the dance was a beautiful portrayal of growing up and understanding the illusory elements in life. The final piece before the interval, Bow Down, choreographed by Joe Cappai and set to a mash-up of Beyoncé bangers was a gorgeous exploration of femininity, sexuality, sensuality and power – a genuine pleasure to watch on International Women’s Day. Further shout outs to Isabella Tjalve’s Sinnerman, an obscenely fast tap piece set to a stripped back jazz track which allowed the percussive dance to really shine, and the final dance, Power Play choreographed by Jackie Wu, which featured some frankly jaw-dropping moves. Kudos to the dancers who split walked across the stage.
There were a couple of nerve-wracking movements – one or two of the Salsa lifts very nearly slipped and one break-dancer’s shoelace came undone, but was impressively salvaged on-stage. All in all, especially considering that the show is a student-run production, the quality was extremely high.
What was particularly refreshing is how openly Dance Society politically charge their pieces. Because Other People Don’t Mean Anything featured a section of movement choreographed to a recording of one of Donald Trump’s inflammatory speeches, and Jasmine Botchey’s Mountains dealt with political apathy. Although the political aspects weren’t always subtle, they were universally effective, and communicated the passion that has gone into producing this show. Furthermore, the technical aspects that allowed all of this to shine through were flawlessly pulled off by Stage Crew – one dancer climbing the eponymous mountain on an otherwise dark stage was hugely effective. Shout out to whoever recorded the CSC lift for The Truman Show.
I don’t think I was the only audience member who was genuinely disappointed when Illusions ended. Massive congratulations to Dance Society for another stunning show.