Souls and Cells

Akeim Toussaint Buck and Crystal Zillwood
Akeim Toussaint Buck and Crystal Zillwood
Dance City, Newcastle

Crystal Zillwood and Akeim Toussaint Buck in Souls and Cells Credit: Omer Ga'ash
Crystal Zillwood and Akeim Toussaint Buck in Souls and Cells Credit: Omer Ga'ash

Souls and Cells is the evocative title of the first collaboration between dance artist Akeim Toussaint Buck and Crystal Zillwood, who first met whilst studying at the acclaimed Northern School of Contemporary Dance, Leeds.

They have brought their different movement generating styles and different cultural backgrounds together in a piece that shows a playful, slightly quirky, improvisatory and joyous shared 'physical instinct' and movement language; their connection is real and sincere.

Toussaint Buck and Zillwood sit downstage by a small ritual circle grouping of stones and lights, whilst eight young people from Dance City’s Centre for Advanced Training (CAT), with whom they have worked for a few days, gradually start to dance in the dim light. Moving in canon, they gradually come to standing and Zillwood and Toussaint Buck join them a circle. A lovely prologue to the main work.

As the young dancers leave the stage, Toussaint Buck and Zillwood stack themselves in a downstage corner, perhaps a burial image. Toussaint is the first to stand and performs a slow motif to which they both return at the end—closing the circle.

This is a ritual piece, a homage to family, a celebration of connections and connectedness, with, at one point, spoken childhood memories interwoven. Akeim shifts between his Leeds dialect and Jamaican dialect, which feels heart-warming. The dancers also sing, creating a powerful and deep-throated earth song; this motif is captured and forms a strong part of the music, created by Otis Jones, recurring at different times.

Although sometimes a little repetitive, this is a performance to go with and feel warm about. The music is in sections and has both fun and strong rhythmic changes, which are particularly well used in Toussaint’s light and bright leaps and twists; Zillwood’s arm gestures are rich and generous, as is her occasional smile!

The lighting was really good, deep orange, like firelight in the evening, soothing and skilled. The original design by Barnaby Booth is exceptionally well realised by Jess Avery and Nick Rogerson of Dance City.

The costumes have symbolic meaning and work well—they bring another layer of connection having been created by Toussaint Buck’s mother, Audrey Mae.

Finally, the audience were rapt and attentive, and it was a pleasure to see this new dance partnership here in Newcastle.

Reviewer: Dora Frankel

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