Brighton Fringe 2018
Part of the Finnish season, this quirky piece of theatrical dance delves into the sparkles, spangles and shadows of the competitive ballroom.
Directed to your seat around a small pop-up swimming pool by an androgynous dinner-suited figure in a plastic wig, my curiosity was well and truly piqued.
What followed was just under 60 minutes of surprise, joy, sadness and fabulous dancing punctuated by a manic cheesy grin.
This is not a dance show, but it is a show about dance, and features plenty of it from a hiptastic cha cha cha to a frighteningly percussive pasa doble, the substance, style and grace are spectacular with the beautifully extended little pinky deserving a “ten from Len”. Only to be expected I suppose from former Finnish junior champions with over a two decades of experience between them.
And ballroom isn’t the only dance on their cards. The Milla Virtanen and Jaakko Toivonen met in Rotterdam while training at the contemporary dance academy, and the show has plenty of floor work, corporeal contortions and facial gymnastics to qualify it as a great example of the physical end of modern dance theatre.
The swimming pool is a glorious set device, allowing extreme close up and hands-on interaction with those audience lucky enough to find poolside seats, for them this is a production truly in the round. Some are even invited to become temporary members of the cast at the Tower Ballroom, and those chosen seemed to relish the roles. A highly personal and tactile experience more than close enough to experience the visceral sheen and scent of performers’ sweat.
Filled with great music including, appropriately, “Dancing in the Dark”, and some choice soundbites from the cast “even a man can be beautifully and sensitively poetic” and soundtrack “don’t attack your partner, attack the floor”, the show also uses multiple on-stage costume changes necessitating moments of semi-nudity and an energetic and entertaining reverse striptease.
But entertaining though it is, the show has a serious side, touching on the pressures, hopes and obsessions inherent in a world fashioned from form, style, polish and persona. Elements reflect disquieting moments of emotional and physical exhaustion reminiscent of the monstrous dance marathons of the Great Depression, resulting in predictable physical and emotional rebellion.
A fitting successor to Strictly Ballroom, this two-year-old piece has been touring widely across Europe, and deservedly so. Although for me it lacked a final dramatic ending it in no way spoiled my enjoyment of the night’s excursion across the floor. and this highly skilled, splendid and eclectic piece really offered the perfect Finnish.