During the pandemic a lot of focus, perhaps rightly, has been on the elderly and vulnerable in society, and what can be done in practical terms to make sure they are as safe and well as they can be, whether it is prioritising online grocery delivery slots or lending a hand for an older neighbour.
The younger generations, meanwhile, have been far from celebrated in certain sections of mainstream media. I’ve had a few interactions with people who were quite insistent that young people are all going around breaking lockdown rules, paying zero attention to social distancing guidelines and asymptomatically spreading Covid-19 to all and sundry. But when I’ve asked whether their own grown-up children, or indeed grandchildren, fall into that category of people, the answer is an emphatic ‘No!’.
And what of the employment prospects of those leaving school, college or university in 2020? Years ago, I recall having to send dozens of applications off after graduating with a degree to even get a foot in the door. “There’s always bar work” was the mantra of those who wanted to offer reassurances that the household bills wouldn’t go unpaid. But in 2020, that may not be available either, depending on how severe lockdown measures are at any given point, and retail jobs are hard to come by too for the same reason.
The camera work in The Aftermath (arguably a premature title, given that the pandemic is not yet over at the time of writing) is deliberately disorienting and shaky, at times like being on an aeroplane going through turbulence. There’s a palpable sense of frustration in the dancers’ movements, with the stop-start actions, combined with a voiceover in which someone repeatedly tries to start a sentence but can’t seem to get a word in edgeways, evoking sympathy with youngsters who are simply wanting to be heard in a world that has suddenly turned on them, indulging in a ‘blame game’.
At one point, the group of dancers start trembling in unison, perhaps indicative of fear or issues with self-esteem. As ever with interpretive dance, one can draw one’s own conclusions from what one sees. Some expression of exuberance comes along, however short-lived, as a mimed object, perhaps a ball, gets passed around. But in the end, they are chasing after something that cannot be held on to, going after opportunities that don’t turn out to be anything substantially beneficial. It’s knockback after knockback, disappointment after disappointment.
This is not, I hasten to add, a narcissistic ‘woe is me’ story. That they keep on moving, getting back up again every time they are knocked down, suggests they are keeping as positive as they can. A piece of poetry closes out the performance, asserting that society has reverted to a time when younger voices were silenced and even derided, but their time will come. It’s not an easy production to watch, but it is an intriguing one.
Rev iew by Chris Omaweng
Northern Rascals, Northern Broadsides and The Piece Hall production of THE AFTERMATH, an exciting new dance theatre piece which explores the impact that COVID-19 has had upon the young people of Calderdale in West Yorkshire.
Shot in Halifax’s The Piece Hall and choreographed by Anna Holmes and Sam Ford from Northern Rascals, The Aftermath is an open-air dance theatre piece exploring the passion and agency of youth in the age of COVID-19.
Performed and devised by 20 young professional and ensemble dancers aged between 16-25, the new piece explores their feelings of isolation, anger, and hope about a world hurtling towards a future they will inherit but is out of their control. How can Calderdale’s young people move past a time which has threatened their prospects, power, and place?