Sunday, 19 October 2014

MurleyDance 'Hail Britannia' 2014 ... A Review.

When I was a little girl I wanted to be a ballet dancer. There was something about ballet that touched my soul... the beauty of shape, the elegance and precision of en pointe dancing, the  way the dancers brought the music to life through the movement of their bodies. I didn't ever become a dancer - that's another story - but I do love to go to the ballet. Last night I went, with my friend, to a performance of Hail Britannia by the MurleyDance Company.

We were both very excited to be invited to the Shaw Theatre on the Euston Road to watch this young dance company's touring show Hail Britannia - a celebration of  aspects of British Culture. MurleyDance were only formed in 2012 and since then they have appeared at the Edinburgh Fringe and as part of Resolution! at the Robin Howard Theatre in London. They are London based and led by David Murley. Their vision is to fuse classical technique with theatricality.

Last night's performance consisted of four pieces, danced by the fourteen dancers of MurleyDance. Hail Britannia began with Shaadi, the story of a young Indian couple preparing for and going through their marriage. I loved this piece! It was vibrant, both in colour and dancing exuberance! Not only did it show an Indian marriage in Britain today, it used a mix of music from both cultures. Opening with the colourful strains of an Indian song they then danced to both Brimful of Asha and I'm Getting Married in the Morning. The effect was a joyful fusion of Anglo/Indian celebration and we loved it!

photo courtesy of @MurleyDance Instagram

Anaish Parmar did a great job choreographing this piece and we were both excited at what was to come. The dancers were all obviously technically very skilled so we were looking forward to the following three parts.

Next came Wayward Kinship, choreographed by Richard Chappell - the story of the relationship between Thomas Becket and Henry II. This was a very different piece. It was very dark, very atmospheric.

photo courtesy of MurleyDance
Richard Chappell is only 19 years old and when you consider his young age this piece was very good. I really liked the emotional interaction between the two male dancers in their red and purple velvet. Not only were their costumes striking in their simplicity and impact, the shapes they made in their dance were beautiful.

dancers in rehearsal courtesy of MurleyDance

rehearsal photo courtesy of MurleyDance

The only thing I would say to the negative was that the space at the Shaw Theatre was not really big enough for the ambition of the dancing here. The dancers were not able to really let loose and so their steps were, at times, a little confined. 

Now for the third piece, Frisky Claptrap, choreographed by David Murley himself. Its premise was the journey of three backpackers on trains around Britain and the eccentrically named towns they visit. Well... what can I say? If I am going to be honest this was such a disappointment. It was more like a sixth form sketch, with very little dancing and a lot of ridiculous slapstick and innuendo. It was rather self indulgent and a waste of the talents of this ambitious young troupe.

Moving swiftly on ... we were shown the Highgrove Suite. This was a ballet performed to The Highgrove Suite, a piece of music commissioned by HRH The Prince of Wales to celebrate his gardens at Highgrove House. This, again, was choreographed by David Murley and it revolved around the journey into womanhood of a young girl.

photo courtesy of MurleyDance

I particularly liked the mother and daughter in this piece. The dancer playing the mother was elegant and precise, capturing the emotional pain she was feeling perfectly. The daughter was a lovely dancer. If the dance had revolved purely around the three or four main characters then this would have been beautiful, but for some reason there was also a flurry of backing dancers tip toeing around the main scene for no discernible reason. They didn't add to the piece in any way and I found myself questioning why they were there. Again the stage seemed too small for that many dancers and their movements suffered from the confined space.

Of course, a fledgling company cannot pick and choose their venues and so they are bound to perform on smaller stages, but perhaps this should be considered when choreographing? I love the ambition of this company and the sheer enthusiasm with which they approach their aims. They are clearly a talented group of dancers with a strong desire to fulfill their aim to create a fusion of ballet and theatre. It is early days for MurleyDance and although I'm afraid I didn't feel my soul touched this time, I think that in the future they have the potential to be great. I am really grateful to have been invited to see them dance (I was kindly given complimentary tickets) and will watch out for them in future.

If you fancy attending the remaining performance of Hail Britannia they will be in Cheltenham on Saturday 25th October.


Emma Julia said...

Fascinating; I know nothing about dance, but there has to be that connection that draws you in...

Sarah Pellew said...

Thanks for commenting Emma.Yes. I've been to a few ballets, from classics like The Nutcracker to more modern fare from Ballet Rambert. I love to be pulled in by the beauty of movement and the way the dancers live the music. Sarah x