Jessica Harris went along to the Motionhouse production at Midlands Arts Centre.
Set against a city skyline, the first act of Nobody simply pulses with tension – you can almost feel an electrical charge in the dancing, in the music and in the stunning use of animation and digital projection.
Motionhouse’s ensemble makes as much use of acrobatics as it does of dance. The seven dancers push themselves to the limits as they explore themes of trust and security – of how these build up, and of how they can break down so quickly and unnervingly.
Always in the background are crows, embodied by the dancers themselves as they morph from humans to crows, and back again. As humans, the dancers express the uncertainty of our inner-lives; as crows, they observe these human activities, sometimes menacingly, sometimes providing guidance and comfort.
But the crows are at their most menacing in their digital format: their chaotic flight across the set, their scattering of feathers, and their cawing embedded in the sound track, all continue the metaphor of turmoil. In one memorable moment, the physical and the digital come together as a dancer, positioned with a digital crow behind him, adopts its movements and its mannerisms. This is anthropomorphism in reverse.
The dynamic changes in the second act: the dancing is less frenzied and the crows are mostly gone – although the occasional cawing can still be heard. The cityscape has been replaced by water and waves. The focus is on support and collaboration. The dancers come together – they are now a single organism of inter-dependent beings and, as such, they uplift each other and those who are watching. This, surely, is a lesson for our times.
Nobody is well worth seeing if you can. Many performing arts companies have been experimenting with digital technologies during lockdown. Motionhouse is not only a superb dance company but also seems to have got creative use of digital technology just right.
Motionhouse will be performing Nobody at MAC until 25th October, before touring the UK and Europe. For further information visit macbirmingham.co.uk.