Pause and Effect

Eleesha Drennan cuts loose with a colourful blend of playground antics and precision in this specially commissioned Maiden Voyage Dance performance

Photography by Joe Fox

A bass, a banjo, building blocks and Beethoven…these unlikely ingredients constitute just a few basic elements of Pause and Effect, Maiden Voyage Dance’s specially commissioned new piece for this year’s Belfast Children’s Festival.

It is the latest addition to the company’s Off Spring production strand, which focuses exclusively on creating high quality dance for the younger generation. Perfectly timed for its target audience at just under 30 minutes, it scarcely allows its eager little spectators the opportunity to pause for breath, leave alone think about getting bored.

Choreographer Eleesha Drennan last worked with the company six months ago on Tipping Point, a thought-provoking performance piece about life spiraling out of focus. This time around she cuts loose in an entirely different direction, with a clever blend of playful humour, playground games and precisely timed, sophisticated dance technique, to which the four dancers - all of them familiar Maiden Voyage names - respond with engagement and brio.

A colourful whirlwind of action, construction, deconstruction and reconstruction is enhanced by the creative imagination of another Drennan – Eleesha’s father Willie, one of Northern Ireland’s best known traditional musicians, storytellers and poets, who has composed the score.

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With fellow musician Davy Angus as his wingman, the two slip effortlessly between styles and instruments, allowing Beethoven’s majestic 'Ode to Joy' to find an appropriate place among and between their homelier sounds.

What a joy it is on a Saturday afternoon to sit in a packed auditorium, filled with shiny-faced children, whose delight and amusement frequently tumble out in shouted comments, unfettered giggles and audible gasps of wonder.

Costume designer Llinos Griffiths and lighting designer Joe Fletcher conjure up a vibrant, pin-sharp world in which Carmen Fuentes Guaza, Ryan O’Neill, David Ogle and Vasiliki Stasinaki dart and scramble, romp and squabble, their busy antics laced with an appealingly childlike demeanour.

The choreography homes in amusingly on their physical contrasts - gangly Ogle, diminutive Fuentes Guaza, elfin Stasinaki, strutting O’Neill - as well as on their cheeky individual personalities.

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Between them the dancers navigate a non-stop path through a random collection of white polystyrene blocks, building all manner of creatures and edifices. In their brightly coloured dungarees and playsuits, they dart and dash like fireflies, growing taller, stepping higher, hiding, seeking and, in shows of mischievous bravado, frequently bringing the whole house of cards crashing down, to the audible glee of the audience.

And through the deceptive simplicity of Drennan’s narrative and the instinctive nature of the performances, important messages are subtly conveyed, messages of friendship and understanding, support and sharing, competition and communication.

The piece is breathless yet thoughtful, nicely infused with humour and music, with the four amigos racing headlong against the clock before hysterically calling time on their own madcap games.

Pause and Effect has two remaining performances at The MAC, Belfast at 11.30am on Monday, March 7 and 10.15am on March 8. To find out more and book tickets visit The 2016 Belfast Children's Festival continues until March 9.