Thursday, 26 July 2012

Strebbing the Suburbs (Just like Quiet Riot did)

Two astonishing aerial dance events in ten days? It must be 'a summer like no other', as the Mayor of London's lackeys' t-shirts are saying. This time it was in the unlikely setting of Victoria Park, Finchley. Free to all and a huge crowd had turned out.

A green crane towered over the suburban trees and picnicking families. Indian string music began and a host of dancers took to the stage, a ballerina in a glittering red dress and Kathak dancers, the stage ringed with parasols and floodlit in red, purple, white. Masses of white balloons floated up and away over the dark-grey trees.

As it went on, the music and the not-quite synchrony of the dancers became trance-like, the taka-taka tongue-clicking and the tapping toes, the flicking heads and expanding, contracting circle of dancers, building into a transporting whole. Unlikely people were drumming their feet in the audience.

Seven giant white bells rose high into the darkening sky, releasing balloons as they went, and transformed into seven white angels in dresses who threw glitter into the wind. The trees sparkled. As the crane swooped and circled over the crowd, there was one breathtaking moment after another;  fireworks, flashing lights and powder unreal against the navy sky.

Traipsing home through the park afterwards, red streamers still hung in the trees where they'd fallen. I thought of the Mary Poppins books - the quiet, orderly park always the place where reality melted at the edges and other worlds could slip in. Where statues come to life and shadows escape their owners, and a woman with a parrot-headed umbrella floats down on an unexploded firework with her feet neatly turned out.

Bells is a collaborative spectacle created by Theater Tol (Belgium) and Akademi (London) combining aerial theatre and Kathak dance. It was presented by Artsdepot and is part of Showtime, presented by the Mayor of London.

The show will be on 2nd August in Lewisham and 4th August in Chiswick. I recommend it for a gentle blurring of the edges of the real.

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