Company of Elders – Mixed Bill at the Lilian Baylis Studio
Company of Elders prove that passion and creativity cannot be hindered by age or physical capability. Established in 1989, the dance company is composed of a troupe of 28 retirees, all over 60 years old, with a drive for dance that can be sensed immediately. Under the direction of choreographers Dickson Mbi, Adrienne Hart and Seeta Patel, they delivered an inspirational performance unlike anything that one would find on a West End stage.
It’s clear that the support, connection and artistic output the company provides for the performers has changed their lives in the most positive of ways. Each dancer exudes an energy that would make even a tri-athlete feel like they just aren’t doing enough. The unstoppable Company of Elders showed the audience on Friday evening that age is truly nothing but a number.
The performance began with a video detailing the background of some of the dancers and the Company of Elders as a whole. It then transitioned into a full-ensemble contemporary piece focused on a balance between dance partners in combination with a flow of energy from one end of the stage to the other. Adding to the power behind the show, the manipulation of stage lighting, captivating sounds and video footage came together in unison to create depth, symbolic meaning and historical context to the company’s greater mission. Staying true to the essence of contemporary dance, each member played a pivotal role in representing the larger theme of physical expression, passion and drive. Each of their stories are pieces of a puzzle brought together through the eyes of the spectators, translating elements of serenity, strength and mystery.
In contrast to the delicacy of the first number, the second and final set delivered a powerful, thought-provoking performance worthy of tears. Upping the intensity, the scene opened with a single spotlight. Slowly, the pressure began to build as the music gained speed, only to be released through on-beat convulsions rippling across the sea of dancers. As the number went on, the greater meaning was left for theatregoers to decipher. For the men, was this a tribute to the strength of masculine youth exemplified by their stomps, flexes and shouts? For the women, was the inclusion of elements of dance reminiscent of the 1960s and 70s an homage to their former selves? Regardless of the true meaning behind the work, it is almost certain that every single member of the audience took something new and heartfelt home with them that evening.
Photo: Matt Austin
Company of Elders was at the Lilian Baylis Studio, Sadler’s Wells on 6th July 2018.