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Projection Dance Company’s THE ZOO Review

Projection Dance Company’s THE ZOO Review

Last week I attended the world premier of THE ZOO, a contemporary dance works by PROJECTion Dance, a company founded by renowned Australian dancer and choreographer Tim Podesta.

Performed for one night only at Sadlers Wells’ Lilian Baylis Studio, ‘The Zoo‘, along with ‘Informal Inbetween‘ provided the springboard to launch Projection Dance in the UK. The works starred London based dancers James Pett and Travis Clausen-Knight, both currently also dancing with Company Wayne McGregor.

Informal Inbetween‘ was a dance of contrasts, starting with the monochrome colour scheme of the costumes. The stage was dimly lit, apart from the stark spotlight on the dancers. They would continually burst into the light then fall back into the shadows, the light giving them life, and the darkness suspending them in time.

Both the dancers style of performance echoed the opposition – Travis dancing with balletic flair, awe inspiring strength and control, in what can only be likened to Tai Chi and James dancing with fire and aggression, teetering on the point of losing control yet still holding onto his trained technique.

Informal Inbetween‘ was the perfect presedence to set the tone for ‘The Zoo ‘ , which is based on Edward Albert’s play The Zoo Story. Bringing up topics such as social divides, isolation and mental health, ‘The Zoo‘ was, at times, uncomfortable to watch, which is why it’s so important to highlight these themes and give them a platform.

Again, the costumes played a huge part in the visual contrast. Travis assuming the role of the upper class buisness man, in buisness attire, lesuirly reading on a park bench. His poise and posture also added layers to the character. He used his steady control to make all of his movements well placed and with intention.

This was in direct contrast to James, playing a character hard up on his luck and desperate for interaction. Rounded shoulders and a downwards gaze, he would slump through steps, then suddenly burst and shake with rage when his emotions would overflow. To be able to dance with such raw emotions that transcend the audience yet still hold onto control is no mean feat, and mesmerising to watch.

The piece slowly built in tension. They began with solo sections. James goading and provoking, looking for interaction. Travis, cool and self restrained. It culminated with their duet. Like fire and ice, anger and desperation were neutralized by calm and compassion. Suddenly events took a dramatic and violent twist, which left the auditorium eerily quiet.

The Zoo is an intruiging and thought provoking piece. It will force you to question your day to day life and the interactions with other humans. You will ponder about the power of your words and actions and their consequences – things that don’t need to be said, things that cannot be undone.

We could all take heed of the themes, suppress our own egos and share more compassion with fellow humans, not matter their status, wealth, sexual orientaions, or mental state. We all walk the path of life together, and all yern for the most basic of human needs – love.

Although The Zoo was a launch performance, Tim Podesta hopes to bring the production back next year for a longer run, enabling more people to experience the rollercoaster, and share the messages within it.

My next article will be a Q&A with Tim, delving more into the themes presented in The Zoo, the working relationship between Travis and James and bringing the production to the UK.

Dance Niche

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