Emergence are a brand-new dance company formed from twelve female dance students studying their MA at the University of Salford. Led by Artistic Director Joss Arnott, they are touring venues across the UK with their double-bill production of two new contemporary dance pieces.
Part one, ‘And Still I Walk’, is choreographed by Sharon Watson in collaboration with the company’s dancers. This piece focuses on the plight for justice faced by the Suffragettes a hundred years ago. Along with a dramatic musical score from Hans Zimmer and Max Richter, six of the company depict the universal story of fighting for freedom, told through the universal medium of dance.
Tender moments of beautiful poignancy by solo dancers feel feminine and are effectively juxtaposed with segments of high intensity and drama performed by the sextet. Raw and powerful, these perfectly match the dramatic thrill and tension of Zimmer’s music. This creates a compelling impression of female empowerment and freedom that Pankhurst would be proud of. It brilliantly captures the power and freedom that was denied to women 100 years ago.
There is an odd significance given to shoes, as they are repeatedly tied to metal grating located rear stage. Some members of the audience struggled to find the symbolic meaning behind the shoes, but I believe it is open to interpretation. Personally, I believe that the shoes metaphorically represented the rights of the repressed women of the suffrage movement. Even when denied their shoes (or the vote), these incredible women carry on fighting for their rights. Linking with the title ‘And Still I Walk’, it is an act of defiance which is embodied by six extraordinary dancers.
In the second half, ‘When Worlds Collide’, the mood drastically changes. This piece, choreographed by Joss Arnott in collaboration with the company’s dancers, feels entirely modern and contemporary. As the full company form regimented lines, timed to perfection, this piece borders on dystopian to me, representing an autonomous society. There are splinter groups of separate dancers that break away, both solo and duets, but they always fall back into line, rejoining the regimented autonomy of the formal lines.
Lighting is used to astonishing effect, creating a visual spectacle. The stage is lit from rear stage with harsh white flood-lighting, converting the dancers into silhouettes. Joshua Tomalin’s stunning lighting design lends the piece a cinematic quality that is particularly dramatic when the full company form their regimented lines. Visually striking and epic, this piece was my favourite of the two.
All the dancers in the Emergence company are phenomenally talented, with remarkable energy and stamina. This is no surprise, since they are all completing a Masters in their art. Each member has a bright career ahead of them!
This was the first full contemporary dance performance I have seen. I absolutely loved it! I will definitely watch more.