Maiden Voyage Dance Triple Bill

Brave and breathtaking interpretations of love, loss and living prove the power of three in this new package of works

Love, loss, living … familiar words, easily said, all essential components of human existence. But translating their multi-layered complexities into the medium of dance is another matter altogether.

A triple bill is a big ask. It is highly probable that two out of three will hit the mark, whereas the third … However, Maiden Voyage’s new Triple Bill scores a 100% success rating, confronting these big existential themes with a satisfying combination of humour, pathos, anger, passion and finely controlled physicality.

It is rewarding to have witnessed not only the development of the company over the 16 years of its life but also the way in which it has built a core of dancers, who have gone from strength to strength individually and collectively. Founder and artistic director Nicola Curry is always on the look out for choreographers of international reputation, each successive project seeking to blend the familiar with the unexpected.

The creators of this trio of new works are Rachel Lopez de la Nieta, one of the UK’s rising dance makers, the hugely talented Northern Ireland dance artist Oona Doherty and Curry herself, who is, incredibly, making her choreographing debut with the company she set up in 2001.

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This is likely to be the final appearance for Maiden Voyage of Carmen Fuentes Guaza, a diminutive, charismatic performer of beautifully understated strength and stage presence, who is returning home to Spain to complete her MA studies. The equally petite Vasiliki Stasinaki, who studied at the Greek National Ballet School, has a pleasingly quirky edge to her dancing which, coupled with the line of her classical technique, renders her a highly watchable performer. In 'Every Something Has a Somewhere', Lopez de la Nieta cleverly partners them with the towering David Ogle, whose performance standard has risen to an impressive level.

The programme note explains that the inspiration for the piece is the process of clearing out years of clutter from a long neglected garage – and the discoveries and memories that surface. Veiled in diaphanous white sheeting, three faceless shapes emerge out of the darkness like dusty pieces of furniture in an empty room.

Henrietta Hale’s soundscape wittily captures the internal music of an old house – clocks chime, floorboards creak, windows rattle - and incorporates the sound of voices straight out of the Antiques Roadshow, earnestly assessing the value of everything from plastic mixing bowls to precious artefacts. Meanwhile, undisturbed beneath their dust sheets, the mysterious figures are left to their own devices, initially creeping around stealthily before cutting loose, physically and vocally, subversively revelling in their anonymity. 

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'Körper & Leib' (Body & Soul), choreographed by Doherty, brings together Ogle and Ryan O’Neill, who from the time he joined the company in 2009, was very much a young dancer to watch. He continues to thrill with the physicality and expressionism he brings to his work, particularly here in a piece inspired by a number of number of sources, including Robert Mapplethorpe’s delicate, powerfully homoerotic flower photographs and the portraits of William-Adolphe Bouguereau, a 19th century French academic painter, who drew on mythological themes in his interpretations of classical subjects.

Throughout, the emphasis is on the flexibility and sensuality of the human body, with the dancers, clad in simple white singlets and briefs, hardly loosening their bonds of physical contact. Whether as friends, aggressors, embryos, supporters, gods or lovers, the two become one in a sustained, breathtaking display of discipline, strength and unwavering control. Encased in Carl Kennedy’s haunting score, this is a work whose intensity and constantly changing visual imagery will live long in the memory.

The final piece hits close to the quick in its examination of the welter of emotions experienced by a couple who have suffered the loss of an infant. Curry, visual artist Sharon Kelly and verbal artist Martelle McPartland have collaborated almost instinctively on this mixed-media piece, whose narrative is propelled by a screen filled with moving graphics and the stark presence of a bare branched tree, hung with fragments of ultrasound scan images. 

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As with the other pieces, the stage is beautifully lit by Ciaran Bagnall and persuasively scored by Kennedy. Fuentes Guaza and O’Neill are well matched physically and facially, drawing on a combination of dance and dramatic expression to convey in turn the woman’s sense of anger and emptiness at losing a child and the numb inadequacy of a man who knows not where to turn or how to respond.

A sell-out audience is witness to a good night for Maiden Voyage and for contemporary dance.

The Maiden Voyage Dance Triple Bill is next performed at the Market Place Theatre, Armagh on Thursday, March 9 at 8.00pm. Tickets can be booked from www.marketplacearmagh.com or by calling 028 3752 1821.