★ ★ ★ ★
Hannah Gillett spends the evening at UCLU Dance society’s latest show, Empire and comes out smiling.
If the social media hype was anything to go by, Empire – UCLU Dance Society’s 2013 Bloomsbury offering – was set to be an unforgettable show; from the offset, I was not disappointed. A thrillingly atmospheric opening short film from Rajee Sukumaran set the bar high, instilling a sense of tension and suspense depicting perfectly the setting of a futuristic London under oppressive totalitarian rule. This enormously effective and highly professional sequence transitioned seamlessly into the introduction of the ‘arrested’ dancers, and it is a testament to Sukumaran’s extraordinary talents that I can only lament the consequent absence of his contributions from the rest of the show.
There is no doubt that virtually every dance number was well prepared and rehearsed, and while the overall concept was original, after the opening sequence it very quickly disintegrated, thus providing little cohesion to the show as a whole. However, this was of no great detriment to the show overall: the talents of the vast majority of dancers and choreographers were notable enough to serve as a distraction to the fact that there was minimal reference to the tyrannical regime. It is unfortunate, too, that there were some dances that fell short of the standard set by other stellar models of professionalism, whether in style, creativity or polish.
Regardless, special congratulations must go to Katherine Belessiotis for a shining example of contemporary dance in ‘Turn the Lights Out’. Every one of the dancers tackled the challenging choreography with grace and poise, with polished unison dancing breaking seamlessly away into emotive duos and trios. This flawless technicality, teamed with some aesthetically stunning choreography to the aptly chosen ‘Fake Empire’ by the National, truly highlighted the extraordinary pool of talent that this society has to offer.‘
The Past Seven Years’ is another number that cannot go without praise; Chiara Petroselli’s hugely witty offering struck a chord with every student in the auditorium. Depicting the panic of library closing time, this extraordinarily clever concept lent itself to the effortless merging of many styles, featuring cameo performances from funk, street and hip-hop styles amounting in an electrifying and exceptionally well crafted visual feast.
Further mention should be extended to President Glennis LaRoe’s nostalgic Waacking, Marla MacKinnon’s Modern Ballet exhibition of polish and technicality, and Charlotte Bowers & Farah Omotosho’s humorous Jazz.
Featuring a range of styles from Contemporary to Tap, Hip hop to Bollywood, it’s true to say that Dance Society have delivered on their promise to provide something for everyone. It is a shame that some of the dances fell short of the exceptional standard set by some notable others, but all in all Empire still remains a show not to be missed, a tour de force of dance.