mapdance 2022

Venue MK, Milton Keynes
May 26, 2022

The University of Chichester’s MA touring company, mapdance, again offers a varied bill of works in a fine evening of dance: one that is sometimes gritty, sometimes thought-provoking, but also one that ends colourfully and joyously. While the three newly commissioned works and one restaging are all ensemble pieces, they are neatly constructed so as to also give many dancers personal moments in the spotlight.

Sarah Golding’s STATE is very much a choreographic response to its musical accompaniment, Adrenaline by John Elliott. A pulsing mass of bodies echoes that of the score. It’s dark and edgy. Different dancers emerge, notably Sabina Schaffer and Jorgia Jonhson for a powerful, aggressive duet full of pushing and pulling and in which they appear to throw roundarm haymaker punches at each other. A later all-male duet between Andrei Nistor and Robbie Pitt is suggestive of a more feeling relationship and is sadly over all too quickly. Among the ensemble, Yu-chi Liao stood out for her strong, clear movement, and sheer presence on stage.

“This is a safe space,” says a voice at the beginning of James Cousins’ Things that I don’t speak of. Lin Guo, in blonde wig, stands and looks at it uncertainly, but is invited to enter. “What will you do now you have it? It’s yours. Feel free to move.” And she does, surrounded by the ensemble in dark suits. That impressive opening draws you but the work loses impact once the ensemble ditch their jackets and the lights come up a little more. Cousins does pull it back again as the dancers show us something of their individual personalities and what might be possible when we feel safe, however.

In-between the lines by Keira Martin
Photo Chris Nash

Robert Clark’s Closer, seen in last year’s programme, if anything looked even better on its return. It still has pandemic writ large as it explores the desire break free and find a way forward. As the soundscape becomes increasingly fractured and ominous, Johnson is buffeted by a string of questions that all seem to begin, “Will we…”. But from that, the choreography suggests that a finding of peace and freedom is possible. There is a sort of emergence from personal darkness as the dance becomes light, airy and eats the space. And as the title suggests, it ends with a couple speaking for all as they do indeed become closer.

The title of interdisciplinary artist Keira Martin’s In-between the lines is rather appropriate. With its unusual fusion of contemporary dance and traditional Irish dance, that is where it sits.

The opening is full of rhythmic percussion from the dancers’ feet that’s reminiscent of Irish dance but with a very modern, edgy, almost ominous feel.

The heart of In-between the lines is a look at people and identity; about being who you are and knowing who you are. Knowing who you are and putting it into words is not always as easy as it sounds, of course, and that’s before we get to the problem of other choosing your identity for you, as one dancer later points out. But it is a work that allows us to see the performers as individuals, and even to learn something about each as they break out one by one to say something about themselves. It was just a shame that the age-old problem reared its head: while some were crystal clear, some were barely audible.

It’s ends joyously in an Irish ceilidh. It’s impossible not to tap the feet or clap along to the music as the dancers, men and women dressed alike in colourful print dresses and hoodies, round the evening off with a fun, exuberant, celebration of life, themselves, and dance.

mapdance has just one performance left this year: at the Theatre Royal, Winchester on June 7.