Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Family Cabaret at Greenwich Dance Agency

Dancers from the Attakkalari Centre
Last Saturday afternoon we went to the Family Cabaret at the Greenwich Dance Agency (GDA) at the Greenwich Borough Hall, an event part of the Greenwich Children's Theatre Festival.  The blurb implored us to "Bring your baby brother, your Gran and the next door neighbour’s guinea pig for an afternoon of bite-sized bits of dance, circus and music".

And so we thought we'd give it a try. And we really enjoyed it. The 3.15pm event, for one and half hours, really suited us as a family of two live-performance-starved adults, and an eight and a six year old. Tickets cost us £35 in total, though large groups are invited 'to haggle'. The set up, in the first floor hall, was round tables dotted around the floor-level dance space, with cushions scattered around for younger children to sit on. A bar was set up and the audience were free to drink and snack, including BYO.

It was a very convivial space for a family to watch a performance.  We had the pleasure of the Mayor of Greenwich, Barbara Barwick, joining us on our table, complete with mayoral chain. She chatted easily to us and the children, explaining how her husband couldn't make it. A thoroughly nice women I thought.

Compered by a child-friendly act from the Levantes Dance Theatre, we watched a variety of eight pieces. Amongst them, two pieces by two powerful dancers from the Attakkarlari Centre in Bangalore - their contemporary powerful and pared-down style was reminiscent for me of something of Akram Kham, a current British-Asian dancer. Ajeesh and Santhosh managed to create through their second piece a mounting sense of tension and sustain it to a single percussive beat. They'll also be performing as part of the South Bank's Alchemy programme just starting there.

Another highlight was the coup by the GDA in securing two dancers from the English National Ballet. James Forbat and Fernanada Oliveira (right) danced 'Trois Gnossiennes' in a modern classical style. It was utterly haunting - just listen to this music, by composer Eric Satie, to which they danced (I have every day, ever since!). Their power, grace and drama left me stunned, then very moved, and then I remembered to breathe (but good dance does that to me!)

The programme was also balanced by swing jazz  dance from Lewisham College (with their devoted Principal Maxine Room spotted in the audience clearly delighted by them), some GwoKa from Guadaloupe, a pair of dancing lampshades and the High Rollaz with their thrilling hip-hoppy 'jamskating' act.

It really was a fabulous afternoon. The GDA makes good use of the 1930s ex-town hall building, where my lovely parents-in-law, then Greenwich dwellers, had their wedding reception many decades ago...  Sure, there were some slight (but only slight) 'community project' moments but there was also lots of high-quality dance. I would definitely sign up when it comes round again. For those aghast at the thought of all those kids in the audience (all hardly noticeable btw), the GDA also have evening cabaret events - next one on Friday 21 May, 7.30pm.

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