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> > > Unlimited 2014: Stopgap Dance Company: The Awakening

7 September 2014

Sophie Partridge gives an account of inclusive dance company, Stopgapā€™s performance on the terrace of the Royal Festival Hall on the penultimate day of Unlimited

photo of stopgap dancers in a row, wearing face paint and posing against a slatted blind,

Amy Butler, Nadenh Poan, Chris Pavia and Hannah Sampson from Stopgap Dance Company

Choreographed by main company member and learning disabled artist, Chris Pavia with a riveting, rhythmic sound track by Andy Higgs, this was my second viewing of the piece which I saw at Liberty Festival, last weekend.

Performed in a square by two male and two female dancers, the whole company seemed much more `on it' and in sync with each other from the outset.

Dressed in grey, the four present an Urban Tribe with their faces covered initially by bandanas. Having opened ensemble, they then separated into their own spaces, winding strips of material around their hands; at times these `bandages' are focused on and at others: hands are used to beckon each other and the audience.

Forming different alliances throughout the piece, certain rhythmic movements and gestures are repeated, as if to consolidate the awakening tribe. This creates a narrative interspersed with moments of conflict.

Wheelchair-user Nadenh Poan, engaged in struggle, centre square with Tomos Young on feet; Nadenh angling his `chair to match the contortions of Tomos. Amy & Hannah negotiated their own relationship throughout. At one point, all four dancers were on the floor, making use of different levels within the space, crouching & stretching. Definitely a Martial Arts feel to the piece! 

Things felt a little rushed when getting Nadenh `back in his `chair' and rather than this being possibly an awkward moment, perhaps could have been given more space to signify a moment of unity in the piece. That would be my one criticism of Awakening! 

This was high quality work, which I would happily have paid for. The fact it was a free event as part of Unlimited when tickets have been expensive, was a real bonus. That and the rain holding off (although I'd have like to see The Awakening indoors, lit etc.) 

The piece ended with all four members, slowly unwinding their bandaged hands and then each exited the square in their own time and space; their mesmerising ritual over. I've waited a long time to see Stopgap and as the pace of the piece built, so did my enthusiasm for their work.

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