Embracing Shadows

Part of Seconds Out
Choreographed by Itzik Galili
Danza Contemporanea de Cuba and Newcastle College Amateur Boxing Club A Newcastle Theatre Royal Learning commission Dance City, Newcastle

Production photo

Seconds Out is something very unusual: a series of events combining boxing and contemporary dance, inspired by the 2012 Olympics and the associated Cultural Olympiad. This, the first event, was introduced by Glenn McCrory, former IBF cruiserweight champion, and then we moved into Round One, a kind of basic introduction to boxing, demonstrated by two members of the Newcastle Amateur Boxing Club under the direction of their coach. Then it was into Round Two: a film, Float Like a Butterfly by Nikolas Barrera, which mingles boxing and dance footage.

But it's Round Three which holds the most interest: Embracing Shadows, choreographed by Itzik Galili, brings together five dancers and the Artistic Director from Danza Contemporanea de Cuba and six young boxers from Newcastle. On the surface a very unlikely combination but as one of the boxers, Lawrence Osueke, said in a newspaper interview, the footwork and movement are similar in both groups so there is common ground in spite of the major differences between them

The piece, in fact, builds on the perceived differences with, at the start, the dancers dancing and the boxers boxing (although in a line in unison). However as Embracing Shadows progresses, the two activities and the participants come together so that, by the end, the two groups are integrated, each having learned from the other and, more importantly, respecting each other.

The piece is fully theatrically presented with amazingly precise lighting from Yaron Abilafia. I was, at times, reminded of Hofesh Schechter's In Your Rooms in the way in which, in that piece, Lee Curran's lighting isolated moments and movements with pinpoint accuracy. Here, for example, at one point a very tight, narrow beam of light from the side picked out a row of punching fists which moved in perfect unison into and out of the light, focusing our attention on something just a few inches high happenning at the back of the performance area.

Galili's choreography is energetic and subtle, increasing in complexity as it develops, and both dancers and boxers responded to its demands wholeheartedly and with total commitment.

At the end, the packed house, comprising dance and boxing fans, rose to its feet cheering. The entire Danza Contemporanea de Cuba company, with Galili, will return in 2012 in a new work paying homage to the Olympic Games. This "taster", which has shown what can be achieved, has laid the ground so effectively that the Newcastle dance world knows it has something very special to look forward to, for it has just seen something very special.

Reviewer: Peter Lathan

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