This year’s edition of Dance Umbrella – Moving London has just finished, and we were happy to witness it. The international dance festival has been around since 1978 and over the years it has contributed considerately to the city’s contemporary dance scene with a programme of outstanding, innovative, irreverent and sophisticated performances for all ages.
The festival aims to widen the public’s perception of what dance is; encompassing all kind of movements; becoming means for exploring the infinite potentialities of the human body; expressing emotions – as well as becoming a tool for social and political activism.
Last Tuesday Candid was lucky enough to attend the performance of one of Asia’s boldest choreographers; Eun-Me Ahn, followed by an encounter with the artist and her dancers. Eun-Me Ahn was born and raised in Korea and continued her training in New York. In recent years she has enjoyed European success, including multiple invitations to her great friend Pina Bausch’s Wuppertal Festival.
Eun-Me Ahn presented Let Me Change Your Name set to a score of beautiful and surreal natural and composed sounds by Young-Gyu Jang. Initially conceived in 2006, over the years the work has changed and, according to the choreographer, it has now arrived to its most solid and mature realization. Nine young dancers moved in the empty space of the stage, enlightened by a sequence of monochromatic colours, removing, changing and exchanging their neon-coloured clothes as if removing their skin and mixing and confusing their identities. The performance was funny, brilliant and irreverent; just like Eun-Me Ahn.
The Festival took over the city showing how dance does not necessarily belong to the theatre but can also find its stage outdoors like Is This A Waste Land? by Charlotte Spencer Projects, which is an immersive performance that re-imagines how we value our landscape, homes and communities. The programme also featured vastly diverse themes and interests; from the exploration of womanhood by Rocío Molina, to defying gravity by Paris-based Satchie Noro and Silvain Ohl and challenging gender such as Eun-Me Ahn’s piece.
On Saturday we were invited to attend the Shoreditch Take Over, an evening of dance, poetry and video at the elegant Shoreditch Town Hall. The night started off with a performance by Julie Cunningham, a moving enquiring into the female body Rays, Sparks, Beating Glows. Julie took inspiration from text, in particular that of feminist theorist Monique Wittig, and thought through how writing can shape visual images and movements. We then moved to the lower ground where poet Vanessa Kisuule recited some of her beautifully written and down to earth poems about rosé wine, waxing, her grandmother, tinder dates and Martin Luther King’s mistress.
The last performance of the night was an intimate ‘dialogue’ between songs by Bob Dylan, selected by musician and composer Maarten Van Cauwenberghe, and Lisbeth Gruwez’s movements. At the end of her performance the public was invited onto the stage to dance with her one last Bob Dylan song. To finish off the wonderful night we returned to the ground floor for the screening of Charles Linehan’s video, a delicate sequence of footages taken from birds-eye view following the movements of a group of dancers moving into the urban and natural landscape, movements designed so that their bodies and their shadows almost interact with those of lamplights, trees, pathways and walls.
In addition to the performances, the festival offered panel discussions as well as shows for children, like the high-tech/lo-fi work DOT by award winning Spanish company Cia Maduixa, combining dance, theatre and technology to inspire, amaze and incite curiosity. We can't wait to see next year’s programme of Dance Umbrella – Moving London.
Words by Victoria de Zanche
Shoreditch Takeover, part of London’s Dance Umbrella Festival 2017, featured Dance, Poetry and Film from Lisbeth Gruwez, Julie Cunningham, Vanessa Kisuule and Charles Linehan. It ran at Shoreditch Town Hall 26-28 October. Let Me Change Your Name, part of London’s Dance Umbrella Festival, is choreographed by Eun-Me Ahn. It ran at The Place 24-25 October 2017.
Let Me Change Your Name is also part of Korea/UK 2017-18, a year of cultural collaborations between South Korea and the UK.