(R)Evolution – Actual Size Dance Company
Venue: Vimeo (online)
Date: 7 August 2021
Ticket price: Free
A site specific exploration on the influences of our landscape, strength of group cohesion and the process of reflection.
Actual Size Dance Company is the University of Surrey’s student-led dance company. Operating since 2005, with new Artistic Directors each year, the company acts as a professional development tool that enables members to develop skills and experiences in dance curation alongside their BA(Hons) studies. This year Actual Size Dance Company has been led by Jasmine Staunton and Adina Dumitrascu who, despite the challenging circumstances, have shown great creative ambition to produce (R)Evolution: ‘a colourful thrilling performance taking you on a journey of evolution influenced by the world around us.’ The forty-five-minute site specific film explores the influences of our landscape, strength of group cohesion and the process of reflection.
Free-flowing limbs explore the joys of improvisation in a calm introduction to the piece. The ten swaying figures remind me of sea coral subtly pulsating with the tide. They’re dressed in a well-chosen pallet of coloured tops and black bottoms and somehow manage to both blend in and stand out against the greenery as they move between formations, coming in and out of shot in an effortlessly symbiotic fashion. As more structured choreography takes its place to a grooving beat the camera work comes into its own: acting as not just an observer but a participant in the swirls of movement. The continuously circular view is captivating and really aids the sense that something is building. Between wide shots and mysterious angles (with only a few well edited cuts), it is clear how the dancers are moving with true knowledge of the space.
Swooping gestures gather pace before the energy is dispersed into smaller group work, as if the dancers are leaves caught by the wind and blown onto a new path. Explorative sections reappear and I find my eye wandering between dancers and fully appreciating their unique interpretations of the loosely set choreography. A duet with two particularly captivating performers in burgundy and mustard explores emotional and physical range within a playful scene. This was a real refreshing highlight in (R)Evolution, second to a spoken poem which was a welcome pause. In the penultimate phase of the piece the music fades and dancers lay still whilst tuning into a voice of acceptance, the message speaks of how we can ‘evolve to understand what becomes is meant to become.’ A poignant point that draws focus towards the struggle to find peace within uncertainty. Like creatures evolving ourselves, I reflect on the prospect of ‘learning to live’ with the COVID-19 pandemic: a blunt reality that we have all heard.
Once again, rhythm arrives at the right moment to recapture and propel energy into the next part of the performance. The group congregate with a swagger of pack-like mentality which brews a feeling that there is safety in numbers. The use of eye contact throughout the performance is a bold and intimate decision that aids their conviction as well as lifting the digital viewing experience. The direct address invites the audience into the experience on a personal level that you don’t often find in live performance.
With a strong ending, (R)Evolution leaves just enough room for interpretation and sits proudly in the space between amateur and professional production. The piece is a successful presentation from dancers at the beginning of their careers with potential to bloom further into rounded artists.