Tuesday, 28 October 2014

MurleyDance's Autumn Tour

MurleyDance has achieved a lot since its début in February 2012. It has completed several nationwide tours visiting venues in Scotland and Northern Ireland as well as big cities like Leeds, Leicester and Manchester and has performed at the Edinburgh festival. It has commissioned work from Briar Adams, Richard Chappell and Anaish Parmar as well as providing a platform for its founder and artistic director David Murley. Above all, it has built up a troupe of beautiful and accomplished dancers. As I said in Ey Up from Upperthong 19 Oct 2014 they have grown in every way since I first saw them on 1 Dec 2013 (see MurleyDance Triple  Bill 2 Dec 2013).

I caught their quadruple bill Hail Britannia at the Shaw Theatre in London on 18 Oct 2014. It consisted of two works by Murley and one each from Chappell and Parmar. I enjoyed each of the works tremendously but particularly Parmar's Shaaadi which transposes the colours, drama and movement of the Hindu wedding into classical ballet. Classical ballet has only recently begun to put down roots in India itself (see More on Ballet in India 4 Sept 2014 and Ballet and Bollywood - why they don't meet more often 15 July 2014) and there are still only a handful of dancers of South Asian heritage in this country, but works like Shaadi should change all that. The jumps, turns and pointe work were all in the classical tradition but the costumes and most of the music could have come from the Hindi cinema. There were wonderful performances from the bride - full of apprehension as she embraced her father and brother - the bridegroom reluctant at first but then performing exuberant jetés - and the busy, busy mother in law despairing and cajoling at first and then dissolving into the dance. A lovely work, I do hope to see Shaadi time and time again.

Chappell's Wayward Kinship was a complete change of mood. Like Gilian Lynne's A Miracle in the Gorbals which I had seen earlier in the day it considered the struggle of the temporal against the spiritual. It explored the friendship between Henry and Beckett and its transition into hate with the eventual ridding of the turbulent priest. The knights who carried out the king's bidding were women and all the more sinister for that. The ballet ended with Beckett nearing his cross triumphant in death. A remarkable work for any choreographer but all the more impressive for a 19 year old who has only just completed his training at Rambert. No doubt we shall see a lot of Richard Chappell in the years to come.

Murley contributed Frisky Claptrap and Highgrove Suite. Both were good but I enjoyed the first work more than the second possibly because of its levity. Ostensibly a tour of Britain by three backpackers - a girl and two boys - it also explored the boys' loyalties. Attracted at first by the girl's charms as the three sped around Britain from Cockfosters to Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch by way of Upperthong (a village in the Holme Valley not far from Huddersfield) to a backdrop of continental trains the boys eventually find their home at Happy Bottom.

Highgrove Suite was the last work of the programme and it was impressive. It traced the history of a young girl's passage through life from childhood to her final illness. Bashfulness at her first male encounter, her childish games, motherhood and eventually a hospital bed. Murley created fluent choreography reminiscent of MacMillan to a haunting, lilting score. It is that fluency that attracts me to his work which I noted fist in La Peau last year.

According to the company's website they intend to present their first full length work next year. That is something of an achievement for a company that is not quite three years old. It says a lot for Murley but also for the company's administrative director Paul Kelly, a senior officer of a major retailer who somehow finds time to chair Phoenix and help to oversee The Lowry. Of course, a growing company needs help from its public and there are many ways in which we can all support it.

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