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Roots: (Overseas) and Is Any Body Home? at Streatham Space Project

Presented as a double bill, these two dance performances explore similar themes, and are both intense yet markedly different. (Overseas) felt unsure and uncertain, and despite some pleasant and comfortable accompanying music, it was difficult, at least for me, to fully connect with the piece, let alone understand it. But this seems a deliberate strategy, even with lighting that seemed to intentionally obscure the performers at times. This wasn’t the sort of show that wanted to put its dancers in the spotlight, instead demonstrating what happens when (if I’ve understood the piece correctly) moving overseas means adjusting to the lifestyle of the community that one finds oneself in.

Roots
Roots

It takes time for people to find their feet in a new place, whether the place in question is literal or metaphorical or both, and while there’s no lack of desire on the part of the characters in terms of wanting to forge a new identity, they encounter obstacles. This in itself is nothing new – whether it’s starting a new job, or even making the leap from full-time employment to retirement, there are many parallels that can be drawn from this contemporary dance piece, essentially about the effects of change. I found the distancing effect a little too successful, though, in that I struggled to maintain interest throughout. And when an increasingly frantic and frightened woman keeps yelling, “Hello? Hello?” into the void, it just reminded me of one of those annoying people who yell ‘hello’ repeatedly into their phone on public transport, when it is clear to all and sundry, except them of course, that there is nobody on the other end anymore.

The interval could not, therefore, have been better timed, and the second half, Is Any Body Home?, is more about the journey from A to B in the first place. On reflection, I wonder if the two pieces might have been better presented in the opposite order, with the journey first and then secondly what happens after the characters get to where they are going. That said, this dance was easier to follow, even if it had a painfully slow start, with an oversized creature dominating a corner of the stage, from which eventually emerged two other beings. It had to be seen to be believed.

The perilous journey involves more than a bit of stealth and quick thinking, and with that comes slow movements as well as very rapid ones at the appropriate moments, giving the piece more than sufficient variety in tempo and mood. At more than one point, the characters throw rocks: I don’t know if that was inspired by media reports in recent times about stone-throwing migrants, and the thing about interpretive dance is that while what is happening is clear, why it is happening is often less distinct. A largely uncluttered set keeps the focus on the dancers and their movements in this varied and thoughtful performance.

3 Star Review

Review by Chris Omaweng

CREATIVE TEAM
Director: Wency Lam
Devising performers: Hsinyu Wu, Esme Lovell, John Hardy, Ronan Cardoza, Romina Dazzarola Forno
Sound designer: Michael Tang
Props designer: Liane Lang Studio
Lighting designer: Ali Hunter
Dramaturgical support: Tenzin Choezin
Photo credits: Rocio Chacon, Olivia Wallis Jackson Photography
Creative media director: Maggie Chan Tin Lok
Producing Consultants: The Project People

Presented as part of the ASSEMBLE Festival at Streatham Space Project
Tuesday 30 April 2024 at 7:30pm
https://www.streathamspaceproject.co.uk/

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