As another Saturday evening fell over Plymouth, one of Europe’s most exquisite dance companies drifted onto Plymouth Athenaeum’s stage. James Wilton Dance returned to the Barbican Theatre with their brand new show, The Storm.
You can’t see the wind, but you can see how it changes objects.
You can’t see unhappiness, but you can see how it changes people.
A low becomes a depression, a depression becomes a storm.
When you’re unhappy people say “it will all blow over”.
There is a calm before the storm, is there one afterwards?
The show follows three individuals coping with different strands of mental illness. The first dancer (Norikazu Aoki) repeatedly lunges and crawls towards the audience with acute agony etched across his face, reaching out for the end of the stage. Aoki performs the same repetitive movements throughout the main body of the dance, despite relentless interceptions by another solo dancer, Ihsaan De Banya. The experience is traumatizing as he attempts to cascade off the edge.
Each determined attempt to move forward on hands and knees drags the floored dancer further backwards. I interpreted this to be a representation of addiction; Aoki repeats the same actions over and over, regardless of how detrimental they are. However, with his repeated attempts to leap off stage, suicide did enter my mind as a harrowing concept.
Regardless of the meaning, this segment was a hollowing experience – Aoki’s ability to act and dance in cohesion was entirely encapsulating. I couldn’t imagine him stepping out of the character for a moment.
The second soloist, Sarah Jane Taylor, struggled to control her body. Gripping a tremor in her right hand, she tries to consume it with a vice-like grip. Like Aoki, Taylor does this over and over, pushing her hand behind her back so as not to see the physical manifestation of anxiety. Throughout the show, she refuses to face her tremor until the end when De Banya pushes her to face it head on. I saw her performance as a symbol for an eating disorder, due to her insistence to physically control her body throughout the show.
Ihsaan De Banya is the final lead of the show and the mediator of it all. Insistent in trying to break Aoki’s cycle and relaying to help Taylor face her struggles, he himself declines in the process of keeping both dancers afloat in his representation of a carer. Fortunately, Aoki breaks out of his cycle and apologises to De Banya, whilst Taylor finally faces her body issues/anxiety and resolves to overcome it. The show ends in an eruption of paper confetti and explosive applause.
The performance moves in stages with a Pink Floyd-esque score, specially curated for the show. Moving from slow and rhythmic to fast and jagged, it’s striking how inhuman the dancers appear alongside the music. With steely professionalism, it’s as if the ensemble move in sync together 24/7.
A work in progress, I have very few complaints. While I do believe the slower and more repetitive parts could be cut shorter and intercepted with some variety, this production felt genuinely groundbreaking and spread an important message.
Make sure you catch them on their tour – find tickets here: http://www.jameswiltondance.org.uk/