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Sandfield Theatre, Nottingham
21 October 2009
Reviewed by: Susie Cochrane »
NottDance is Nottingham's international experimental dance & performance festival, brainchild of local dance organisation Dance4. In its 20th year the festival brings a great deal of diversity to the city, from a life-sized rat to dancing amongst commuters, & Les SlovaKs performance in the Sandfield Theatre was no exception.
The Slovakian dance collective live in Brussels, Belgium, and is made up of five dancers (friends and collaborators since childhood), and a fiddler. This description however, hardly sums up their abounding talent, as they all create movement and use voice or instrument in some way to create their own live soundtrack. Live performance, theatre, and contemporary dance all encompass the expressionistic choreography of Les SlovaKs. Just over an hour long, I was unsure what to expect from this troupe as they began by confidently facing the audience and building an uncomfortable silence, occasionally interrupted by nervous laughter from someone three rows behind. This said, it gave us a good opportunity to study the five Slovakians. With varying heights, looks and builds, their costumes reflected this individuality whilst simultaneously hinting at their heritage and roots in folk tradition. Floral patterns, bold colour and pom-poms all made up the well-coordinated outfits. As the staring contest finally ended, the fiddler took up position with some sound equipment, and the dancing began.
The men had a certain gentle elegance in the way they performed, fusing exciting contemporary dance with the emotions of their individual and collective friendships. Gradually building momentum, the tempo of the fiddle dictated their swoops, bounces, jumps and rolls. It was heartfelt and humorous, and as the performance played on the movements of some of the men became positively endearing. Everyone was taken by the mischievous demeanour of Peter Jaško, who was light-heartedly passed between dancers, carried on shoulders or leap-frogged over. Although much of the show was comic by way of grins and bunny-hops, there were darker moments too. Bringing the mood to a dramatically more somber level, the lights dimmed and solo dances filled the stage, avidly watched by the other dancers, now seated in the shadows. I got the feeling that there were some very personal stories enacted through these particular dances, and it is a credit to their skills that they managed to convey this so intensely. It was easy to become engrossed not only by the character of the individuals, but by the insight into a different culture that they presented.
Talking with members of Les SlovaKs after the show, it became clear that this had always been a part of their life, and was a genuine passion. Milan Herich explained how they had been trained in dance from the age of four (first performing together a year later), and had lived together since he was fourteen. It seemed this had always been his ambition, touring their performances and enjoying international success, and despite never having planned to settle in Brussels he appeared to have no regrets. Through our conversation it became clear that all the sentiment evoked through the performance was sincere, and that NottDance had made another excellent festival selection.
Fine Art student of Nottingham Trent University
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