Thursday, 30 January 2014

Broken @ The Lowry, 28.01.14

We live our lives surrounded by gadgets and gizmos, engaging with the world through a laptop or a lens. We cocoon ourselves in synthetic fabrics and concrete houses, kept separate from nature while eating our processed dinners. But although we live in this mechanised and man-made world our bodies and spirit are anything but: we are alive, organic and part of an endless flowing continuum of life. It is this idea that Motionhouse's Broken at the Lowry explored so successfully as the dancers documented the struggles, trials and triumphs of modern humans and the Earth we are born from.

Motionhouse have become known for their highly physical shows that mix multiple mediums and Broken was no different; this was not a dance performance accompanied by film and music but a blend of all three, each element inseparable from the others. When dancers would reach for branches in the sky, unseen hands would send forth poles perfectly timed to greet their grasp. When the performers dived through the permeable film screen a cinematic splash would ripple outward in sympathy. The energy, expression and timing of the dancers was exemplary, leaving one to wonder at how they managed to sustain such levels for over an hour.

Broken does not follow a narrative structure, but rather paints abstract images through which the overall theme becomes apparent. The central motif is that of the earth and our relationship with it, be that as giver of life, as a source of mineral wealth or as bringer of destruction. The dancers flowed together, their bodies forming rigid rocks and disparate clouds with equal ease. Arms jutted out like mineral seams, fingers and hands reached upwards to become branches blooming forth from the soil, while ethereal beings edged onto the stage, like the ghosts of mother earth herself. As the piece ended in the present day our precarious place was illustrated by the power of an earthquake that shook all that had been made down into dust.

I normally find it quite easy to be concise in a review, but with Broken there is so much to say that it is a struggle. Of course that is the point of dance - it says complex, intricate and beautiful things in a way that words simply cannot. Praise must go to artistic director Kevin Finnan for assembling and directing such a strong team and harnessing their talents into this unified piece. Broken is a magnificent synthesis of many disciplines, accessible for those unfamiliar with dance and, above all, a moving and fun experience.

Words: Andrew Anderson

Images: Chris Nash

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