Wallflower at Battersea Arts CentreCultureTheatre
Memories are strange things: at once vague yet potent, blurry yet acutely precise – a sensation perfectly captured through the medium of dance by Quarantine’s Wallflower for the Dance Umbrella Festival.
Hailing from Manchester, the troupe of performers present an exhilarating and inventive exploration of physical memory through a tag-team reenactment of all the dances they have ever danced in their lives. Now onto their 1,367th, the revived moments cover everything from silly to poignant, momentous to trivial, each faithfully documented and added to the exhibit accompanying each performance. James Monaghan called on the audience to help pinpoint the Heads High Mr Vegas track he went clubbing to in his youth that he could only hum the rhythm to. Professional dancer Jo Fong recalled having to perform an Elvis track while standing on her hands, legs akimbo. And writer Sonia Hughes brought soul and emotion to memories of indulging in the pain of rejection listening to Lauryn Hill’s Ex-Factor on repeat, and dancing away at Notting Hill Carnival as police threatened to shut it down, telling the audience through caught breath: “That wasn’t the song and that wasn’t the dance – but that was how it felt.”
Striking a tone somewhere between seeing your dad cut some shapes at a wedding reception and being the fly on the wall as someone prances inhibition-free around their living room, the show is intense and kind of embarrassing to watch, yet ultimately liberating for both the dancers and the audience. Long pauses stretch on as members of the company desperately search their minds for the minute details of a moment in time and whole tracks play out with only a head bob or knee bounce from the performer. But this complete disregard for the usual courtesies of structure and choreography paid by dance performances brings an authenticity that draws the audience in to share intimately in each of the cast’s moments of embarrassment, love, rejection or unadulterated happiness.
Forming a gentle rebuff of the Instagram generation, the improvised, low-fi act reminds viewers of the power of our physical connection with the past: the smells, sounds and movement that can throw someone back far more effectively than any filtered-cropped-and-edited image can. What Wallflower lacks in finesse is made up for in the pure joy it finds in music, movement and shared everyday experience. It’s a game of remembering that’s fun to watch but looks even more fun to play.
Wallflower is at Battersea Arts Centre from 20th until 22nd October, for further information or to book visit here.
Watch the trailer for Wallflower here: