A Northcott Review: The Featherstonehaughs Dance Group

The Featherstonehaughs are an all-male dance company and one of the UK’s most successful contemporary group who have performed highly unique and pioneering work for over 25 years. The choreographer Lea Anderson is renowned for her unconventional and dynamic choreography; her style is completely unique and always exciting.

Last night the Northcott was full to capacity to see the farewell tour of Featherstonehaugh’s draw on the sketchbooks of Egan Schiele: a 20th Century Austrian painter. A protégé of Klimt, Schiele’s portraits were known for their intensity and distorted forms. This was reflected in the performance, which created a stylistic and disturbing  world of its own.

As the audience filled the auditorium the six dancers lay on the stage with strikingly painted faces, Grease-esque quiffs and vibrantly painted suits (designed by three-time Oscar winning costume designer Sandy Powell). For those that haven’t experienced contemporary dance before the abstract and jerky movements may have been a little shocking but it doesn’t take long to become absorbed in the meticulous creative processes and ability to show pedestrian gestures in a new light.

The first section embodied a sort of ‘distorted vogueing’ with certain shapes from the paintings being physically enacted and developed to the electronic vibes of the live bass from talented musicians (and composers) Will Saunders and Steve Blake.

A main focus for Lea, the choreographer, is the architecture of space which dance fills rather than a narrative story or base emotion seen in commercial dance. A definite highlight was the lyrical and more sensual middle section where the dancers perform a trio of floor-work in full ‘naked’ body suits painted with the body parts exaggerated such as seen in the paintings. The physicality and rapid formation changes showcased the impressive agility and dynamics of the dancers as well as their visible muscular strength.

The lighting and stage effects, of a square floor lit border which flashed and atmospherically cold, harsh and sometimes neon lighting, coupled with the sudden bursts of darkness made for energetic aesthetics which further enhanced the movement.

Overall Featherstonehaughs performance was a thrilling, intriguing dance-work filled with plays of light, shadow and colour that only made the movement addictive to watch. Anderson’s innovative style continues to stun audiences. Sadly, the Art council cuts further stunt the growth of creative industries and it is a tremendous shame that this tour is their last, thus ending the era of the company. See it if you can, and be prepared to be disturbed – yet captivated.

love

Kate

The Featherstonehaughs final performance is tomorrow, book tickets here.

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