Review: Wondrous Stories

Jessica Harris reviews the opening event of the Birmingham 2022 Festival.

As dusk descended on Centenary Square, so the anticipation rose. And in this blend of aerial displays, dance, digital projection and music, this outdoor spectacle by Motionhouse Dance Company maintained the suspense throughout.

The narrative was straight forward enough. Birmingham is a great city because of its diverse people, because of their stories and their resilience. But the aerial work, the logistics of turning this square and its architectural surrounds into a sky-high performance space, and the sheer imagination which went into this production were all far from simple.

At one end of the square, a large screen was in play, sometimes used for projecting images, sometimes the backdrop for dancers and choir on stage in front of it, sometimes a vertical stage in itself, as dancers moved across it defying gravity.

At the other end of the square, the Library of Birmingham’s balcony became a launch pad for a giant book of ‘Wondrous Stories’. Suspended from a crane, this opened up to release aerial artists, whilst the filigree skin which surrounds the library was used as a springboard for more aerial performers.

The square’s central area was filled by community dancers and we got a sense of the power of dance as a means of engaging people from all communities.

Back to the story, because there was a nice final link. There will be challenges ahead. There will be confusion and chaos. But if we listen to each other, we can create a greater story together. And the importance of connecting with each other was illustrated by a huge globe, populated by aerial artists, raised on-high before being brought to land in the circular cut-out in front of the library.

Wondrous Stories is the opening production of the Birmingham 2022 Festival. The show has been created by Kevin Finnan, Artistic Director of Motionhouse. Live spoken word is from local artists Raza Hussain and Sebbie Mudhai. Digital projections are from Logela Multimedia.

The Company’s dancers are joined by Critical Mass, a collective of dancers from across Birmingham and beyond which has been put together as part of a project to represent the region’s diversity and ethnicity. It is made up of dancers aged between 16 and 30, a third of which self-identify as D/deaf or disabled. Also performing are members of wheelchair dance group Freewheelin’, Motionhouse Youth, Sampad and DanceXchange. Soundtrack is provided by Birmingham’s Choir With No Name.

Well worth a visit, and free of charge, the production is on at Centenary Square until 20th March. For further information click here.

Pics – Brian Slater