Tom Dale and collaborators
Tom Dale Company
Dance City, Newcastle

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Jemima Brown in SURGE Credit: Alice Underwood
Dan Baines in SUB:VERSION Credit: Alice Underwood
Tom Dale Company in SUB:VERSION Credit: Alice Underwood

It’s been 10 years since choreographer Tom Dale was in Newcastle, when he created a work for fledgling dance company Fertile Ground.

Now he’s back with his own well-established Nottingham based company, Tom Dale Company, on the penultimate performance of a 14-date tour of visually mesmerising double bill, SURGE and SUB:VERSION.

First up is SURGE, a solo with Jemima Brown, a powerful and charismatic dancer who also sings impressively. She inhabits a world of a quite stunning combination of digital design, using laser and complex, vivid projections by Barret Hodgson of Vent Media and music by Ital Tek.

The performance was incredibly seamless—all praise to the technical crew! Brown begins standing centre stage—she’s half robot, half human, sometimes tossed by the swirling light and pattern, sometimes exploring it, sometimes tiptoeing along the tiles and pathways. Dale credits both himself and the dancer’s contribution to the choreography, which is influenced by club, popping and break and uses the floor—it’s vigorous, dynamic and punchy.

The colour palette is mainly pink and grey and, initially, the patterning is mostly rectangular, big and small shapes and patterns shift, dissolve, shatter, reassemble and come and go. After a very brief blackout, when Brown is momentarily offstage, the patterning and shapes are markedly different with spider-like webs and even chicken wire forms.

The music has strong rhythm and is both beautiful, varied and slightly relentless, with a trance club feel. This is a work of considerable skill and high level collaboration, spectacular and gripping. Nothing feels random, right down to the white-based costume and make-up by Geraldine Wharrey, Cristiano Casimiro and Kate Morgan and could equally well be performed in a club.

SUB:VERSION is a more recent work from 2023, for four people in a series of 10 dance sketches. Exciting lighting design by Andrew Ellis includes light sweeping from upstage into the audience, breaking up and changing patterns, and is matched by the experimental club music by WEN, sparse and throbbing.

The dancers are a connected group exiting, meeting, leaving, dancing in unison and, as in breakdance, battling each other with brief dance solos; the opening scene is beautiful as the light shifts from dancer to dancer so they seem to appear and disappear. Halfway through, there are three duets performed by Brown and Dan Baines with the third duet danced by Orla Hardie & John Ross, with the central duet offering both pleasing connection and lyricism.

The costumes were casual, almost too much so in contrast to the structural formality of the music, and the dancers' individuality almost at odds with the ensemble feel, perhaps deliberately.

Tom Dale’s work is experimental, dynamic and with high regard for all elements, making for performances that fuse digital and live in immersive experiences.

Last show Curve Leicester 15 May!

Reviewer: Dora Frankel

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