Tuesday, July 5

The Aftermath – The Piece Hall Halifax

One of the most depressing aspects of the pandemic is how quick people are to condemn parts of our communities for its spread and even more bizarrely putting a lot of the blame on young people as a group.

That’s why a troupe of young dancers from across Calderdale, supported by Northern Broadsides, worked with choreographers Sam Ford and Anna Holmes to devise this original piece reflecting on their own experiences of living under the shadow of the virus, and to rebut the idea that mass infection is somehow all their fault. Led by professional dancers Daniel Phung and Soul Roberts they delivered what appears to be a clever, vibrant and challenging piece.

I say appears because Aaron Howell’s film of their performance in the piazza of Halifax’s historic Piece Hall is a distraction.  The cameras endlessly moves in and out focus around one or two of the dancers – mainly in mid shot – which generously might be designed to reflect the energy of the movement, but actually is just annoying.

You suddenly realise it’s because all of it is shot inside the dance, and not from what would be the point of view of an audience sitting outside the movement.

The result is you get very little sense of how the dancers are using their bodies to convey emotions, and there’s very few wide shots of the large ensemble working together. It’s like watching a production of Swan Lake with Prince Siegfried and Odette in mid shot with the odd fuzzy glimpse of the Swans in the background.

The way it is edited with quick cuts also distracts from any sense of either individual talent or – worse still – the work of a large troupe who appear to contain some talented performers.

Anyone familiar with the Piece Hall knows it is in parts a three-story structure, so it’s hard to understand why cameras were not positioned high up to get some wide shots of the whole ensemble. There is lots going on in the background, and I wanted to see much, much more of how the dancers were working together.

It’s not all doom and gloom as the sequence where the young dancers switch from playfulness to being struck down by the virus is powerful as is Jonathan Deering’s sparse score spliced with BBC reports blaming our youth. The bits of choreography I could pick out were intelligent and smartly danced by the non-professionals.

One can only hope that once we return to whatever the new normal is after the virus that what seems to be a pertinent piece will be restaged, and I will be first in the queue to see it.  I’d like to get my own sense as an audience member of just how much talent there is in this part of West Yorkshire.

Reviewer: Paul Clarke

Reviewed: 19th November 2020

North West End UK Rating: ★★★