Typical London. You step out of the tube station on your lunch break and there’s some nutter dancing to the beat of a drum only he can hear.
Only this time it’s not care in the community, it’s art – one of Dance Umbrella’s free events put on as part of their 2007 festival. And it was gathering a bemused crowd, who, despite the best efforts of the orange-jacketed stewards handing out programmes, seemed mainly unconvinced that this was anything more than an usually persistent exhibitionist. And indeed it’s hard to imagine a more hostile environment for modern dance than Liverpool St. Station, which is probably why the organisers chose it. They did at least avoid the rush hour, when anyone attempting to take up that amount of pavement would simply be swept aside by the home-going hordes. But at lunchtime people were inclined to linger, and some who’d stopped to mock, stayed to watch, with surprisingly little heckling apart from the street cleaner who was doing a performance of his own across the way.
I’d already been to see Transports Exceptionnels, a pas de deux between man and digger, which I found surprisingly moving and strong. And this one? Well, in the words of the young man in the suit behind me, ‘Isn’t anybody else finding this all a bit wierd?’ The dance was silent, and reminded me most of the twiddly bits gymnasts do during the floor exercises, when they aren’t actually turning backflips or standing on their hands. What really made it was the audience reaction: the double takes, the city boys sitting outside at McDonalds slowly stopping shovelling chips into their open mouths as they took in what they were seeing, the people who paused for a moment to watch. Even in the busy city most people who actually noticed did stop, if only to whip out their mobile phones and take a photo. And maybe a city needs that chance, once in a while.
After all I’ve been to see two contemporary dance events in the space of a week, and that’s two more than I’ve seen in the rest of this year, indeed in the rest of my life to date. Transports Exceptionnels is finished now (I expect the leasing company wanted their digger back) but Solo 30 x 30 is on for the rest of the month. If you’re around Liverpool Street station at 1:30pm I recommend you go. After all, what else were you going to do with your lunch break? Eat at your desk?
It’s even got its own blog…