Ripple Affect

Dive into a dance world of waves, hugs and harmonies and experience the Ripple Affect

Get ready to be transported to a world of waves and hugs with Echo Echo Dance Theatre Company’s latest offering, Ripple Affect. Five dancers and three musicians create an ambience that will soothe your senses and temporarily transport you to a place of light and love.

The dancing begins with swirling, playful, prancing movements. The five female dancers bring to mind pagan celebrations, or wood nymphs on a spring day cavorting in time to the music. The sounds of the drums, flutes and wood instruments enhance the ambience and there’s a real earthy feel to some of the sounds.

Throughout the whole performance you do lose yourself. The musical accompaniment in this production really sets it apart and draws you in. It's performed by The Henry Girls, who are Karen, Lorna and Joleen McLaughlin from Inishowen, County Donegal. (You may remember them as finalists for Ireland’s Eurovision entry back in 2005.) They create an eclectic mix of sounds and play an impressive range of 15 instruments between them! These girls have many strings to their bow.

The first song with lyrics is High Hopes, a touching melody originally sung by Neil Halstead. The lyrics, with lines such as ‘You’ve got high hopes for someone good and strong, Someone good to hold you close’, are in tune with the hugging and embraces that are embedded into the dance. The whole performance is a very intimate affair and sometimes uncomfortably so!

Director and choreographer Steve Batts found the inspiration for Ripple Affect from that most simple of interactions, the hug, and the imprint each hug leaves in your body, your memory. He believes everyone has the desire to be held or to escape and that there is a certain pleasure in visiting the feeling of loneliness as well as intimacy.

This is expressed through the movement in which we see the dancers in pairs with one left out in the cold, or one choosing to be on their own. A mixture of movements that sometimes rejoice in intimacy, sometimes reject it, and sometimes express exuberance at being part of a group.

The movements are very wave-like with the group joining together holding each other closely, huddling together, then branching out from the centre, flowing throughout the stage. Every part of the stage is used and the light throughout the performance is very effective, used to create a cold emptiness or a warm sunny brightness that calls to mind a summer's day.

When La Mer (The Sea) is performed the waves go wild. Sung in French by Lorna, this is a truly beautiful version. Lorna’s voice lends itself beautifully to the French accent, and I much prefer her version to the original by Charles Trenet. The accordion adds to the wonderful European flavour and this song is one of the highlights.

The range of sounds created in this performance are remarkable. From tinkling piano sounds, drums, cymbals, fiddle, wood percussion, harp, accordion, I am amazed at how many instruments the Henry girls conjure up from their small space! And the range of music they play - Celtic, folk, blues, European, and a lot more besides. Haunting, cheerful, melancholy, carnival, even slightly deranged at times! A truly talented trio, the music is sublime. I prefer all their versions to the originals.

Ripple Affect can perhaps be best described as interpretative dance or poetic movement. The dancers convey their feelings intensely through their movement and it’s not just about the dancing, their expressions also reflect the mood changes throughout. Ayesha Mailey stands out particularly, with an animated performance.

The rhythm in this dancing is sometimes feisty and fast, sometimes tender and slow and at other times the dancers are frozen like statues. This is a diverse piece of contemporary dance with a simple idea at its core - the power of touch and how a hug can affect and resonate. A simple, affectionate embrace like the humble hug can go a long, long way, as Ripple Affect so eloquently proves. 

Anne-Marie Marquess

Ripple Affect plays at the Old Museum Arts Centre, Belfast, March 18-19, Waterside Theatre, Derry, March 20-21, Hawk's Well Theatre, Sligo, March 24, An Grianan Theatre, Letterkenny, March 26 and the Tallaght Civic Theatre, Dublin, March 29.