VERVE 2024 Triple Bill – Review – Leeds Playhouse

VERVE 2024 Triple Bill – Review – Leeds Playhouse (2)

By Christine Goode, May 2024

The esteemed Northern Contemporary School of Dance postgraduates touring group VERVE graced their hometown with a captivating triple bill performance at Leeds Playhouse. Northern Contemporary, famed for being one of the leading UK dance centres for education, and is the only institution of its kind in England outside of London, enables aspiring dancers to enter and shape the industry and become leaders in their field. If, like me, you have been lucky enough to see any of their performances before, you know you are in for something special.

The evening commenced with ‘Home Sweet Home,’ a poignant piece by the advanced training students, wxploring connections to hometown and childhood memories. The dancers displayed a range of emotions from strength and attack to vulnerability.

‘A Field of Beauty’ by Matteo Marfoglia presents multiple opportunities to experience, appreciate and challenge what beauty can be. This is visually stunning, a shocking pink curtain unveils dancers, adorned in flowing costumes, complemented by dynamic lighting and evocative music as they effortlessly demonstrate strength and agility whilst also using props. This piece left a real impression, inviting multiple viewings to uncover its hidden depths.

VERVE 2024 Triple Bill – Review – Leeds Playhouse (1)

“Stamina and precision”

Joy Alpuerto Ritter’s ‘Forget-me-not’ delved into the complexities of family. Dancers of all ages represented family members, highlighting the ways in which our ancestors shape our present selves. Everyday clothing and the use of flowers throughout the performance added a touch of familiarity and poignancy, resonating with audiences on a personal level.

‘People used to Die’ by (LA) Horde is a rework for VERVE 24 and features intense hardcore techno music with synthesised melodies and rapid tempos. The dancers’ movements mirrored the raw energy of the music, exploring themes of violence, drugs, and profanity.

Hard Jump, originally created in Belgium, is an unforgiving style of dance that was popular in the late 90s – a repetitive highly energetic routine that lasted 35 minutes, reinterpreting the gestures of hard jump, Hacken (gabber scene) and jump style. The stamina and precision from these young dancers is outstanding. If you have every participated in a high-intensity fitness class you will know how difficult it is to keep the same level of fitness throughout the class, however this young cast did not drop an arm line or show any lack of technique throughout this gruelling routine.

VERVE 2024 Triple Bill – Review – Leeds Playhouse (3)

“Casting shadows”

The stage was reset to offer a stripped-back, bare bones feel to a piece portraying the origin of style often performed in streets and clubs, with the lighting emulating a dark club with lights only on centre stage and the back. Occasionally as the performers move downstage, they disappear from the light, casting shadows as one would in a club. No elaborate costumes – tracksuits and gym gear are all that is needed. This piece is all about the dance and the music as these young athletes lose themselves in a trance-like state to the beat.

It is little wonder that this was the finale of the triple bill. Perhaps you are thinking 35 minutes of hardcore techno music is not for you, but the piece moulds together perfectly as the dancers demonstrate their resilience and creativity.

VERVE’s triple bill highlighted the exceptional talent and creativity of the Northern Contemporary postgraduate students. From the emotional depth of ‘Home Sweet Home’ to the ethereal beauty of ‘A Field of Beauty’ through to the thought-provoking exploration of family in ‘Forget-me-not’.  It truly was a diverse and unforgettable dance experience.

images: Elly Welford


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