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Breakin’ Convention Presents: The Ruggeds State Shift

It’s unusual, I’ll give it that much, with three very different sections to this brief performance. The first made more sense to me than the second, and the second more than the third – which is quite an achievement given that the second involved no dancing at all, in a dance show. It does, however, give Jessy ‘Boi Beige’ Kemper an opportunity to demonstrate his music-making skills. Rightly, he saves his best music for last, even if early on in his set I felt transported back decades, to those days when a technical fault of some kind would mean live television was paused, before a continuity announcer apologised for the interruption in transmission, and some instrumental music would play for a few minutes until the fault was resolved.

Breakin’ Convention Presents: The Ruggeds State Shift - Photography credit Emile Vrolijk.
Breakin’ Convention Presents: The Ruggeds State Shift – Photography credit Emile Vrolijk.

As I didn’t peruse the freesheet provided until the Tube ride home, the disc jockey set was entirely unexpected to me – at the risk of sounding snobbish, I didn’t come to Sadler’s Wells to watch someone twisting knobs and playing the keyboard, however excellently they do so. And what eventually become a pulsating rhythm seemed inappropriate for an audience to sit silently and listen to: I would prefer not to attend ‘immersive’ productions, but even I felt this was the kind of music best enjoyed by an audience permitted to take to a dancefloor, especially if we were to be denied seeing anyone on stage dancing themselves for this section.

The first section, ‘Waterbrothers’, was mesmerising stuff, with Lee Demierre and Roy Overdijk more often than not moving in complete synchronicity. They were never far from the surface, physically speaking, keeping close to the floor, although emotionally the performances ran deep, with a rivalry between their characters that in the end was far more friendly than it was bitter. At times, it seemed they were spurring one another on, and at other times working in tandem, as though facing a common enemy of some kind and working together to subjugate it.

‘Turns’, the final section, involved a lot of kneeling down to begin with, as Virgil ‘Skychief’ Dey doesn’t seem to know which way to go, and (this being a solo performance) there’s nobody to guide him. The piece is really about navigating through life, in case anyone was wondering if Google Maps may have been of use to him. The use of what are best described as hanging bars of light was more fascinating to me than the dance moves, however frenetic Dey’s movements became – it says something that I kept trying to count how many there were, far easier said than done as they themselves kept moving about, with the lighting design working hard to constantly change the brightness of the bars, both individually and collectively. (There were at least forty-two bars, for the record, possibly as many as forty-eight.)

The resulting feeling of discombobulation seemed to be what the show was trying to achieve, demonstrating how life involves dealing with so many variables and things that cannot be predicted with complete accuracy. As such, it has some universality and identifiability in it, but it doesn’t say much beyond a portrayal of life’s struggles, and there isn’t any definitive conclusion to this highly interpretive narrative. A postscript speech and a couple of short videos explaining what had just been witnessed cemented the growing feeling that this was like looking at a painting in an art gallery and then reading the blurb next to it to fully understand the artist’s intentions. It was curious enough to hold my attention throughout – just about.

3 Star Review

Review by Chris Omaweng

Adapt, improvise, overcome. The Ruggeds present a vivid duo of pieces about going with the flow or swimming against the tide.

State Shift is a performance about adaptability, with the solo Turns and the duet Waterbrothers.

As water changes shape, Lee and Roy change their approach to the floor. In the duet Waterbrothers, they challenge each other in a stream of movements in which the younger brother sometimes storms past the older one.

26 – 27 May 2023

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