Dance students from Stratford-upon-Avon College recently presented their show entitled ‘Virtues’; an abstract dance piece reflecting on the dancers experience of Female Friendships.
The show took place in The Willows Theatre with a troupe of 11 performers and a sound and lighting operator from the Backstage Production Arts course. The 40-minute piece consisted of a number of routines which collectively expressed themes around female friendship.
The performance was directed by Claire Morley, Assistant Head of Department and Dance lecturer. The choreography was a combination of direction from Claire but also a collaboration with the dancers; allowing the students to take ownership of certain sections. Each dance was accompanied by music chosen by the lead choreographer on the piece and was a mixture of instrumental compositions and music with lyrics.
The show started in complete darkness. As white floor lights slowly appeared, the dancers could be seen in a line at the back of the stage. All dressed in black, the students showed a unity and collectiveness, however each costume was slightly different which also highlighted the uniqueness and individuality of each dancer. The look of the dancers was complemented by beautiful lighting throughout, designed and operated by Camron Northcote, a Backstage Production Arts student. Camron also operated the sound throughout and provided a beautiful ambience for the entire show.
The lighting in particular was a literal highlight. In previous dance shows at The Willows Theatre, there has been more emphasis on using set within the show. This time the brief was to focus on using light. With a mixture of colours and spots, Camron changed the space and evoked emotions that matched the sentiment of each sequence exactly.
And evoking emotion is exactly what the entire show did. The performance moved through a variety of ideas of what friends can do and be for you; exploring negative emotions like loneliness, stress and being toxic as well as positives like listening, being supportive, cheering you on and celebrating the good times.
The dancing in the show was contemporary with a lyrical fusion. This type of dance comes from the dancers themselves; using a mixture of styles like urban, street, ballet and gymnastics to express their emotions/intention. For inspiration, the students had researched the Ballet Boys and Hofesh Shector; the latter being a practitioner who says movement is born from the inside out, and concentration should be on feeling more than any other technical or physical aspect. And the students achieved this in abundance; conveying a wealth of emotion throughout. Dancer Tilly Eades showed excellent commitment and delivery, with her moves being complimented by excellent facial expression. Isla Breach and Aminata Millimono worked excellently in duets; providing a beautiful focal point at one moment in a cold blue spotlight.
Every single dancer in the performance was excellent both individually and as a collective. They utilised their own skills and tricks whilst also combining to create amazing group shapes. One particularly impressive moment was in the song ‘Survivor’. The group danced in strong unison. Lit by a red light, the scene was dramatic and showed power and strength. Another was when the start of one of the final pieces was lit by phone light; an amazingly creative representation of the importance mobile phones have on individuals and on friendship.
Overall, the piece was an excellent exploration of its theme. The dancers demonstrated their technical skill as well as their ability to commit fully to the emotions they were trying to convey. The technical aspects such as lighting and sound were expertly chosen and delivered and, as a whole, provided a moving and intriguing insight into female friendships.