Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Dance Fusion, Havering College of Further and Higher Education, The Queen's Theatre, Hornchurch

This "Celebration Dance Showcase of New Talent and Student Achievement" was an absolute cracker. If we could only bottle the youthful high energy shown on stage there might be a cure for what ails those of us of a rather more than somewhat older generation.
About 70 performers aged from 16 to 23 were backed by their fellow students acting as stage managers. And what stage managers!  A grand piano carefully yet rapidly moved on or off stage without fuss every time needed was totally impressive.
Performers they ranged from A-Level equivalent (Level 3) to second year degree students and even when an experienced eye could tell that they were relative newcomers to various techniques, they still showed poise, dedication and confidence.
For instance, it was an amazing experience to witness a young soprano soloist coping with the demanding high notes of the classical opera aria Visse d'arte, alone on the huge stage, apart from the expert accompaniment of pianist Simon Gray. Equally matched by the demands on the en pointe ballet dancers.
The show opened with Burn The Floor, followed by Mash Up, then a complete change of technique for the classical ballet of Sleeping Beauty.
Among the truly outstanding performances were contemporary dance The Fallen choreographed by Melissa Weir, danced by her and Lee Howard; Elaine O'Connor's ingeniously reworked Thriller with the Year 2 Musical Theatre students; also by Elaine the sheer romanticism of Isn't It A Lovely Day by HNC Dance and Musical Theatre students; and the exuberance of the 1950s Big Band American Cabin Pressure from Level 4&5 Tap choreographed by Sarah Woodroof that ended Act 1.
We came back to the fun of three female dancers en pointe and one male dancer in a 1930s style Tuxedo Junction referencing Gene Kelly's muscular style in a melange of bebop and classical. Arabian Nights was a whirl of colour harking back to this year's drama presentation of Scheherazade and her stories of  A Thousand Nights and One Night. Yet more O'Connor choreography from Year 2 Musical Theatre's version of Mack and Mabel's celebratory anthem If Movies Were Movies which contrasted with Tina Turner's meaty Nutbush from the Level 3 Jazz dancers.
Brass bravado arrived courtesy of the invigorating Sousa march Stars and Stripes by Level 4 Ballet performers followed by Broadway Jazz from Level 4 Jazz.
Particularly unusual and of great interest was HNC Dance with Sandra Broxton's choreography performing to contemporary composer Gavin Bryars' Out Of Zaleski's Gazebo. This piece makes what is normally considered rare use of the Tuba's sonorous tones. Also totally impressive was the grown up composure and control of her warm voice by the performer of Ella Fitzgerald's Every Time We Say Goodbye accompanied by Simon Gray. This was a truly mature performance.
Having missed a couple of year's productions what really struck me were the colours, glamour, glitter and sheer numbers of costumes on stage this year, often in matching sets for large teams. Knowing as I do the struggle that staff went through to achieve impressive results on less than a shoestring in the past, this sock-it-to-them costuming was wonderful to see. Especially in the light of ongoing financial cuts.
More power to both students and staff elbows in the future!
Mary Redman
June 16 2015

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