With Illuminated, Quicksand Dance have produced an exciting synthesis of dance and lighting. Dancers acknowledge and interact with changing lighting arrangements, so that subtle moods shifts conveyed by colour and soundscapes complement the dynamic, creative dance. Through ten interconnected sequences, of solos, duets and ensemble pieces, as well as a finale featuring all the cast, ten miniature stories are contained. A dancer notices a globe and others gradually become aware of their bodies through movement.
In a first sequence, dancer Natasha McCabe makes a solo discovery that begins with a beat like a heartbeat. Immediately the expressive dance is immersed in high quality sound that reverberates through the Keble O’Reilly. In her next piece, Natasha is joined by three other dancers, Olivia Charley, Brittany Roberts and Phoebe Mansell. The dancers are synchronised and explore different sequences together. We see a different mood vividly expressed in the angst and awkwardness of expressions and dance.
As the piece proclaims in its own flyer: ‘Illuminated aims to engage a wide audience with the exciting creative narrative of dance’. Choreographers Emily Everest-Phillips and Rosalind McAlpine’s show is certainly exciting and, performing in the round, dancers establish a relationship with us by eye contact and audience interaction. An affiliation with the national charity Parkinson’s UK and their When I Dance campaign the production aims to ‘help create awareness of the wider power of movement’, often taken for granted by the able bodied. The show is both inspiring and powerful, and provides an experience completely different from the typical student production in Oxford.
The greatest relationship is that between dancers and lighting, though. In one piece a dancer seems almost to touch the space illuminated by a spotlight, before recoiling in shock or intimidation into the group of performers. It is an interesting way of using lighting, and the spotlight becomes a feature in itself; with dancers circling round it. I particularly enjoyed the decision at one stage to have dancers wearing luminescent white gloves: despite low lighting, movement was just visible in a dark atmosphere. In another instance, a dancer seems to switch a light off by hitting it through the draping and the techniques of silhouetting dancers through the fabric worked well.
This simple but effective set was an asset throughout, with draped white fabric, white floor and beautiful suspended globes for lighting. Costumes are in similarly neutral colours; but even without complicate costume or props, the dynamism onstage creates all the necessary variety in atmosphere.
Towards the end a carnival mood and happier atmosphere is complete with smiling dancers. The piece climaxes in an ensemble finale that brings together the many techniques, themes and sequences that have been explored in just under an hour.