“Are you happy?” asks the anonymous voiceover. “Yes-why?” one dancer snaps sensitively. “It’s up and down… Happy? Me? I don’t know… Maybe. Being Here Today. Maybe” trills another, twisting herself into a knot.
So went the climax of Didy Veldman’s, The Happiness Project.
The Happiness Project is a performance punctuated by marvellous melody and random bouts of mania. Through it Veldman asks ‘what is happiness and why are we so obsessed by it?’
The answer is confused as dancers flow from convulsing caricatures to flamboyant fashionistas. They are joined on stage by violinist and composer, Alexander Balanescu. It is Balanescu music, which breathes beauty into the performance.
Marvellous melody cannot however, make up for lack of meaning. The show swiftly loses sight of its core question,
‘what is happiness?’ and the exploration grows superficial. Interesting ideas are introduced, such as the lovers’ dance of Mathieu Geffré and Estela Merlos, but are never fully developed.
The dancing is eye-catching, and several nods were also nicely made to Pina Bausch, most noticeably paying tribute to her famous Café Muller scene.
The Happiness Project is a promising beginning to this very young dance company. The skill and vision is there, it just requires some refocusing.
Review by Venetia Byles
award-winning choreographer and former Rambert dancer presents
UMANOOVE in ‘THE HAPPINESS PROJECT’
May 2nd and 3rd at The Place, 8pm
Cast: Dane Hurst, Estela Merlos, Mathieu Geffré, Madeleine Jonsson
and violinist Alexander Balanescu
“We’re all interested in being happy,” says Didy, “and The Happiness Project examines the idea of happiness as something we strive for, as something fleeting, something that can be very elusive or even absent. My aim is to find a common language between the movement, drama and the music on stage in my investigation of western society’s endless search for fulfillment and to prompt the audience to wonder if the search for happiness is actually quite simple or a complex blend of inspirations.”