Ripple Effect

Echo Echo extend the hand of friendship - but the Henry Girls steal the show

The world of interpretative dance has a ‘marmite’ effect on audiences: you either love it or hate it. Nevertheless, Derry and the Northwest’s premier dance company, Echo Echo, have brought their 2009 Ripple Effect performance out of retirement in anticipation for an all-Ireland tour which is being planned for later this year.

The show’s tagline, if you will, poses the simple question ‘What do you do after you have been hugged, or hugged someone?’ Five women, all members of Echo Echo’s burgeoning talent pool, aim to answer this question using their own unique styles of movement and dance, ably assisted musically by Inishowen trio the Henry Girls.

Playing to a small audience in Strabane’s Alley Theatre, the five international dancers (Ayesha Mailey, Emily Welther, Maite Larraneta, Siobhan Simpson and Leilani Weis) take to the stage. A frenetic opening ensues, wherein the five roll, run, embrace and lift each other to the lyrical strains of the accompanying music. It feels like a warm-up for the rest of the performance, as if the performers are limbering up for the physical strains ahead.

After an upbeat opening, the mood gets more sombre, a tonal cycle that dominates the whole performance; noisy highs and quiet, soft lows.

Themes such as friendship, love and acceptance are explored via the medium of movement and touch, and, as the title suggests, so to is the idea that the ripple effects of brotherly love can reverberate around the world. Solitude, loneliness and feelings of non-acceptance are explored too.

It would be fair to say that this type of performance is very much an acquired taste. The dancers attempt to tell a story with their bodies, but what it is they attempt to communicate can be hit and miss. If you don’t know what you’re looking for then the dance itself can be difficult to follow and may seem scatter-shot. I found 2007’s Consequences a more fulfilling experience and better structured than Ripple Effect.

At certain points during the production each dancer is given a solo opportunity. These are much more entertaining and easier to follow. Coupled with the excellent music, the solo sections can be hypnotic, with the audience focused on one performer’s actions rather than trying to keep up with the whole.

Surrounded by a plethora of instruments, the talented Henry Girls, a trio from Donegal, help convey the impression that we're travelling through various countries and eras. The music not only reflects traditional Irish airs, but also hints of a Spanish tango, a Brazilian carnival and a Parisian nightclub in the 1930s. The last comes in the form of a throaty, passionate rendition of Charles Trenchet’s ‘La Mer’.

For the uninitiated, and even for some of us who have experienced interpretative dance before, Ripple Effect may confuse. Few of the themes are ever painted clearly enough to give the performance focus. It has its moments, but if the movement doesn’t get you, the music certainly will.

Paul McElwee