Review: Shades of Bray – Head Over Heels

Dance, and art in general, is there to make us question – at least good art does anyway.

And audience of last night’s performance of Shades of Bray’s Head Over Heels probably had a lot of questions. The performance was part of the annual Resolution dance festival at The Place in London.

The piece by choreographer Jacob Bray was a snapshot of millennial life in a world fraught with controversy (namely Brexit) and how trivial life – and more specifically dance – can seem in comparison.

The cast, comprised of four female dancers were our comperes, a girl band and performers for a twenty minute take on pop culture in 2017.

Conceived ‘in  early 2016 in the toilets of a West Sussex night club’ Head Over Heels deals with a range of topics, presumably close to the choreographers heart, in a not so serious way atop a backdrop of chart songs not often found in a ‘serious contemporary dance’ venue like The Place. 

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But then why is contemporary dance so serious anyway? Perhaps that’s another question to decipher another day, but it’s just one of many posed by the piece.

Dance is a topic that oddly isn’t explored that often by dancers and choreographers. They instead use dance as a vessel of which to explore and critique other issues.

But Bray uses dance to tackle the issue of dance itself and why we take it so seriously in a world that, lets be honest, could do with a bit more of a laugh right about now.

Using witty satire and what can be assumed are caricature style sketches of encounters he has had during his years of training, Bray transports us into his surreal and sassy world.

“That was some serious contemporary dance” the cast defiantly stress to the audience.

Being someone who studied dance for that stock three year period, I can vouch first hand for what at times seemed like an over-zealous seriousness from which people approach their training. 

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Rightly so, as it’s not cheap to undertake further education – but what’s University without the silliness?

While you’re immersed in that world you take your art seriously despite sometimes wanting to laugh at the stone faced way we all had to move around the dance studio like loons.

Bray bravely mocks the industry that made him in a piece that will reach out and grab the the heartstrings of those who have ever stepped foot into a dance class and performed a split leap or been asked to ‘use their breath’.

Or my personal favourite dance-ism, ‘taking a moment to arrive in the space’.

There’s a time and a place for art in this world, but in the times we find ourself living, Head Over Heels reminds us that we don’t need to take everything that seriously after all.

Shades of Bray is funded by the GradLab programme at The Point, Eastleigh.

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