Serge Aime Coulibaly, Vincent Mantsoe and Gail Parmel
ACE Dance and Music
The Lowry, Salford
November 10 - 11, 2023: 1 hr 20 mins
Birmingham-based contemporary dance company ACE Dance and Music’s Unknown Realms double bill is two completely different works: both characterised by energy and evocative imagination.
Beyond that it’s difficult to find much in common between them; there are seven dancers in the first, six of whom appear for the second, so they thoroughly deserve their 20-minute interval.
I’m a bit tempted to complain about the blurb about the show, assembling vague phrases about “the world and what is happening NOW…”, “an all-embracing, multi layered production” etc., but maybe that’s what’s needed for marketing anything these days.
The important thing is the works themselves; the choreographers who created them and the composers who made the soundscapes for them.
So let’s give them their proper names. First was TNBT – The Night Before Tomorrow, with sound by Yvan Talbot, created by Brussels-based, Burkina Faso-born Serge Aime Coulibaly. Over 35 non-stop minutes the work is powered by three rhythmically-insistent sequences, followed by a pause, then vocals and recorded speech. To begin with it’s all jagged, anguished movement with a symbolic table on the stage that only in the later part becomes something for all involved to get around. There’s anger, dissension, conflict, and striving… until the final section, when freedom and joy break out. What makes the difference stems from the recorded speech, which is about emerging from colonialism and (by implication) the burdens that ex-colonialists impose still on emergent nations: “You say you worry about the future… what future?” Political dance, in a way, but you could find your own application. At the end there’s a slow-mo strobe-lit tableau, after which the slow-mo continues without the strobe… and then it finishes: no bows, just the interval.
The second piece, by Vincent Mansoe from Soweto and ACE Dance and Music artistic director Gail Parmel, to a soundscape by Andy Garbi, is MANA – The Power Within. “Sacred, ritualistic and shamanic”, in the official description, it too has a sequence ranging from white noise through thunderous drumming and an oriental-sounding instrumental solo to a long, neo-classical choral and string orchestra section that seems like a requiem. The mood is solemn and quasi-religious, beginning and ending with a striking image of the performers emerging (and later receding) slowly from (and back into) shadows.
No upbeat fun and games to finish, then – but intriguing choreographic language, drawing on contemporary ideas and African traditions that make for a novel fusion.
More info and tickets here