“An electrifying dance triple bill” the poster said: that was an understatement – it was a quadruple bill. Dame Evelyn Glennie plays with all the grace of a dancer, and on stage is so mesmerising it takes an effort to concentrate on other performers.
The tour by Joss Arnott Dance celebrates the fifth anniversary of the company and Dame Evelyn’s fiftieth birthday. In just over a month it will have played in Wales, the North West and North East, the South, East and West as well as London. If that isn’t qualification for Silver Traveller star status, what is?
Ipswich hosted the premiere performance. To us, that seems only right. We were at the inauguration of the Dance House several years ago, having travelled fifty miles for the experience. There was an open top tour of Ipswich, dancing in the streets and a show on stage featuring international companies of young dancers. Royal Ballet stars were there as well. Nowadays there is a continual programme of new and renowned dance performers, and we live just a few miles away. The sites chosen for the 5|10 tour shows there are dance venues and music centres fit for dance all over the country.
Tickets at the Dance House are amazingly cheap with concessions available. Dance Eats provides light meals, snacks and a range of drinks in a modern ambience and the “Barre” offers more to drink. In keeping with the pun mood, lampshades are tutus.
Photography in the auditorium is not permitted, so the poster is the best on offer. It is an intimate space:not more than a dozen rows of seats and about the same number in each row. The front is at stage level so everyone has a close view. Eye contact is not normal in a dance space, and all the more engaging for that.
The building and interior are fair game, however. In mid-October daylight views have to show the context, but the evening buzz from just outside should be apparent.
The programme began with a special performance by the Centre for Advanced Training at Dance East, the parent body of the Dance House. Eight young dancers who on this showing have bright futures performed Joss Arnott’s “Multiply”.
Two pieces by the company followed: the first, “24”, was for four dancers, then a solo called “V” demanding almost a contortionist’s repertoire.
Evelyn Glennie’s drums, gongs and other related instruments filled stage left with her xylophone at stage right for the second half, whereas before she had played from the wings. Seeing her play showed how some of the cello-like sounds of the first half had been produced. She had strings attached to drum heads, and played individually on each with a bow. Her movements complement the dance, making it easy to see why they would collaborate, taking the risk she could draw attention away. Not that she is in any sense a scene stealer but as self-effacing as any performer can be.
All five dancers performed a range of rhythmic, gymnastic and at times acrobatic movements, solo, duet and ensemble. With the fifth member there is also a contrast against the quartet. A deserved ovation for everyone, including Joss Arnott himself. I hope all the remaining shows are sold out too.