Edinburgh Fringe 2019
“From the Top is a witty contemporary dance work that explores the power relations between performers and dance makers. The piece presents to the audience a fictional scenario based on the everyday life of dance artists and looks at the absurd nature of artistic integrity and what it means to make art. Action on stage is juxtaposed with voice-overs and surtitles to reveal the politics between the ever-demanding choreographer and dancers who continuously attempt to fulfil a choreographer’s artistic vision.”
Two performers dance several contemporary sequences.
One is stiff and manipulated by the other across the space. Then they begin to work together. Their movement quality is excellent, visceral, athletic and nimble, moving from lifts to throws, balancing and bouncing off each other, and often physically connected in slow sustained movement. Both dancers relate to each other throughout…and the piece continues with verve and spirit.
Something – or someone, stops them – a voiceover character offers directions, more detailed directions and then adjustments. They comply by applying the feedback. Surtitles projected upstage provide a fascinating subtextual element to the physical storytelling.
From the Top is an interesting multi layered piece to show how dancers work with directors and choreographers. However, it goes deeper than that and shows power between people and authority figures.
Victor Fung, award-winning choreographer and artistic director of Victor Fung Dance company from Hong Kong has presented at the Edinburgh Fringe before. This year’s physical theatre piece has many interesting parallels, the most obvious is with the affect of power and politics.
The dancers play parts that also require acting skills and they are believable in their authentic reactions and interactions. Watching the performers go beyond their genre is exciting and many of us can relate to developing a performance, working with a director and imagining our own reactions. They stay focused, and their movement is strong and precise.
This situation gets intense – and something has to give!
Both performers (Kenny Leung and Ronny Wong) look stylish in high concept black fitted leggings and long sleeved tops (costume design by Cheng Man Wing).
Music composed by Ruth Chan complements the tone of the performance and drives it forward.
Fung notes in the programme that the company is interested in knowing how audience members feel when confronted by power. Therefore, this creative and meaningful piece is an interesting way of stimulating discussion.
Commentary and physical reactions from the dancers is relatable and adds humour, wit, depth and pathos in this contemporary piece.
From the Top works well as a short standalone piece at this thirty-minute length, yet there is room for more development, twists and surprises to explore the premise more fully. It is effective because of the meaningful story and political undercurrent, the high quality of the dancing and the interesting choreography.