Not many people go to see contemporary dance at its new and fresh edges, but Swallowsfeet Collective are a young and energetic company that deserve a bigger audience. At Brighton Youth Centre, in the dance studio, they presented four well defined pieces that – though sometimes showing signs of being works-in-progress – were by turns attractive to watch and intriguing. And that was despite the ever-present rumbling and thumps from the skateboard rink above them, which disturbed some of their soundscapes.
The first piece had three dancers interweaving a kind of visual diary, with the chance meetings and joys and frustrations of the day written in the dance. They use to good effect a number of props – one of them brings in an armful of tape and detritus, then drops it after a collision, with the resulting mess then creatively used in all sorts of ways. It culminates in a beautifully staged visual joke: one dancer retrieves a teabag from the pocket of another, who stands oblivious and engaged with her partner, before making tea in a high-heeled shoe. (It makes sense in context.) And then there was some very good bagpipe playing – seriously. I liked the way the bagpiper slowly donned his kilt and sporran, prepared the pipes and then played a virtuoso medley of tunes.
The next piece for two dancers was more intimate; the contact between the dancers, as one curled up with the other, gave the piece a more emotional focus. I liked the use of a small radio, sometimes playing pop music, sometimes delivering static that they danced to. It’s a metaphor for being in and out of tune with each other, perhaps. The nice thing about good dance is that you can rest easy in these kind of personal interpretations, without worrying whether you’ve got it “right”.
The third solo dance was powerful and unafraid to use long poses and stillness, against a soundtrack punctuated by electric drills and popular music. The dancer was shaping herself amid the chaos of the sound, sometimes driven by it, sometimes motionless.
The last ensemble piece had the feel of a much freer improvisation, and was I suspect a work still in development – but none the worse for that. The dancers, from their five chairs, formed different groups of one or two of three, and segued nicely into a set piece to a bit of Fleetwood Mac. I liked their putting on and off of shoes and socks, fitting in with their theme of movement.
All in all this was a two hour programme that kept the audience’s attention – there was variety and energy in all the performances. It’s well worth a look.