12 Degrees North

Blackpool Grand

12 Degrees North at Blackpool Grand

A dozen graduate dancers, united by their Northern roots, were the latest contemporary company to contribute to this venue’s autumn of dance shows.

In a programme of three dances by notable choreographers they gave a heartening display of versatility, strength and eye-catching movement—almost to excess.

But behind it all was clear evidence that the region has a lot to offer when it comes to this artform.

By way of underlining that message the company also extended an opportunity to another dozen young dancers, from Preston’s Cardinal Newman College Dance Academy, to open the show with their own work Oscillate, with its own energetic shapes and constructs.

Alesandra Seutin’s Article 1 opened the main programme and drew heavily on her own African background, striving to fuse the continent’s traditional dance with more contemporary forms. Growing from a cacophony of radio sound and street noise it fizzed with energy well enough but only really lit up when the 12 dancers made way for more effective and separate routines, where shaping and rhythm connected.

The idea behind Antonia Grove’s second piece is that the audience take a hand in choosing which dance, out of five, comes next. Since there was no apparent link between any of them it proved more of a puzzle than the party piece that might have been expected.

All of which could be excused by Serious Semaphore which threw up a haunting use of Etta James’s soulful ballad "At Last".

There was much more assurance about the final dance, Gary Clarke’s Bitter Suite, even if it did rather over-extend some of its clever invention.

A lone male dancer, who you might interpret as an Alfie of our times, engages with six lusty, black-clad females in a dissection of human relationships and sexual menace that is often taut and highly effective.

Sadly it starts too slow and ends too long which steals some of its impact. Lose the 12 bricks (it would take too long to explain!) and break up the choreography into a proper suite (with a little less Maori Haka thank you) and this was a piece of dance that should have legs.

Find out for yourself when the tour ends at Lancaster University on November 22.

Reviewer: David Upton