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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

A fusion of movement, light, and sound

Christopher James Goring finds much to admire in the complexity of Illuminated

Illuminated, the latest production from Quicksandance, is an innovative fusion of light, sound and dance. Currently running at the Keble O’Reilly, it is a captivating spectacle which manages to excite and surprise throughout its all too brief runtime. The show—consisting of ten distinct but interlinked dances—impresses with its variety, pivoting from one style to the next in its exploration of the idea of light. It begins with a solo dance, a slower piece which seems to be contained in a circle of darkness before expanding outwards.

From there, the dances segue into one another. In one, the dancers are mimicked by shadows behind a gauze, forms which reveals themselves to be other dancers. The dancers struggle with their shadowy doubles, before slamming their hands upon the gauze and dissipating the shadows. In another dance, three performers are separated into different circles of darkness, each moving within their own prison. Each routine is invested with a sense of drama, of intrigue.

The drama could not be achieved without the interplay of sound and light. The show soars when taken as a whole, each part of its design merging with every other, each constituent element bolstering and elevating the next.

The minimal set—some white cloth draped across the back of the stage and along the floor, and some spheres dangling from the ceiling—seems plain, almost bland, at first glance. Yet this allows the show’s wonderful lighting to transform the performance space, the bright, block colours evoking multiple different atmospheres.

The show swings from bright pinks and blues, to alluring greens, to stark whites, each shift allowing the dancers to dive into the next routine with vigour. The globes, meanwhile, are suggestive: bubbles of shadow one instant, celestial orbs the next. Furthermore, the sound design is more than a mere backdrop against which the dances can play out, instead, it is an integral part of the experience, a complex array of aural sensations which is synchronised with the lighting.

The slow thud of a heartbeat signals the beginning of the production, the music flares when a male and female dancer collide with one another, when circles of darkness break up the light, distortion ripples across the soundscape. The use of surround sound enables the production to envelop the audience, seeming to swallow them up in the proceedings. The whole show is seamless, each piece of it flowing into the next until it becomes impossible to separate one specific element from another.

Only when taken in its entirety can Illuminated truly be appreciated. Every element is impressive on its own, but they interanimate one another in unexpected ways, creating an experience which arrests the senses. The feeling of danger which dominates one dance between a male and female dancer is enriched by the sudden flashes of light, the immersion of the throbbing music. This interweaving of parts is vital to its success.

Playful when it wishes to be, disconcerting when it chooses, Illuminated is adept at leading its audience through its world of intertwined light and sound. More than anything, it demonstrates a cohesiveness of vision across the entirety of its construction. The dances could not exist without the light, the light without the sound, the show without any of them. This cogency—and the sense of completeness that follows from it—makes Illuminated a triumph.

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