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Review of Dance4 N.Dance at Royal & Derngate, Northampton

In my far reaching ambition to experiment with nearly everything on offer at Royal & Derngate, this weekend I attended N.Dance, part of the national Dance4 competition. Consisting of thirteen routines from schools, colleges and universities across the country and their hopeful ambition to be selected to perform at the MYDance festival in Plymouth.

I have actually seen two dance performances in Northampton previously, but this is the first that I have put finger to keyboard for review. As a viewer of Strictly, I am not adverse to watching dance although it would not be top of my list. However with my couple of visits during 2014, I was admittedly won over by the impact of seeing it live. If there is one thing I have learnt over this past, busy theatre year, there is absolutely nothing better than seeing something (anything) live, even if you may not be an absolute fan.

Rather than going through all of the routines, I shall pick out the best or highest impact ones. The first (and actually the first) from Grange Primary School set the bar at 99% fun. While not of the obvious standard of the older performers to come (give them five years and that will be them), their frivolous routine "Into The Rain" with them wielding umbrellas and wearing cagoules had unremittingly high cute levels. Lovely little pieces like their synchronised popping up from behind the umbrellas was wonderful to see.

Northampton School for Girls (NSG) "Illusion of Thought" was a huge contrast to the first routine. More contemporary than the first and with clever use of lighting and the front of the stage. One performer scaring the life out of some of the audience with the drop down into the stalls and stare. Vivid to watch, with only possibly the reservation of just too many on stage.

After three generally contemporary performances, which had been greeted appreciatively but minus whoops, NSG's 'You need me Man, I don't need you' finally hit the vibe with many parts of the audience and the screams and indeed "whoops" were unleashed. Hip hop or probably more correctly now known as street dance (I iz not cool like themz) was the name of the game and it went down incredibly well. It was for me also very, very good. All the better for there being just four performers on stage, as the first four had been perhaps too busy. A hip soundtrack (rap, but I shall forgive that) and a superb energetic performance that they maintained throughout.

The sixth performance was from Northampton College and a group I believe that I had seen last year at the university (I certainly recognised the solo man of the group from then). Titled "My Line" this was again mostly contemporary, with the added gimmick, but a well used one of rope (ribbon or silk?). This was used very well, with the performers walking it like a tightrope or tied together throughout the routine. It was all very clever and inventive.

The final performance of the first half was, while not the best, the absolute and total emotional impact of the whole night. "So...! Dancers" from Matisse Jazz Cut-Outs was a group of ten disabled performers (including one in a wheelchair). It was simple, but so incredibly effective. High emotion and they genuinely looked like they were loving the opportunity, especially the young man who took the bow just a few times. Simply wonderful and a great decision to finish the first half with this performance.


Wielding my licky yogurt I was settled for the second half and first up was the funniest routine of the evening. "Catch Me if You Can" from Patchwork Dance was the Keystone Cops presented as dancers as two clumsy policemen pursued the naughty graffiti fiends. Lighthearted, fun and great music (any opportunity to hear Valli's Beggin' is fine with me). Maybe not the best dancing of the night, but most certainly the most fun.

NSG's "One Women's War" was the absolute opposite. Absolute power and emotion telling the story of the wives and girlfriends left behind during World War One. Representing those land girls and factory workers and their wait to hear from the line. One part set to the words of one such lady, this was incredible stuff and one of the best of the night.

The penultimate routine was "Piano" from my old school of Northampton School for Boys and was perhaps the most surprising for having many more boys than girls (an obvious problem of the evening in general was the lack of male performers). There were still girls present but this was a refreshing routine for the night because of the different style represented by the male bias. I liked it, but perhaps I am doubly biased with it being my old school and a group of blokes!

The final performance of the night was from Castle Youth Dance and their "To The Clock Tower" and while not my favourite, it had a lovely added danger of props. Wielding and used mostly throughout were wooden posts. It had elements of Stomp! and although I didn't quite follow the story it may have been trying to tell, it had a good visual impact.

As an evening it was a totally entertaining, much more so than my initially sceptical mind might have thought. Fun, varied performances with a huge crowd (admittedly most of them relatives). The only thing I think the whole thing missed was perhaps a host to introduce the performers as the screen was just a little stale and the end just came with no fanfare. However that one negative aside, it was just a excellent evening.

Performance reviewed: Saturday 24th January, 2015 at the Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton.

For more details about Dance4 visit their website at http://dance4.co.uk/

For further about the Royal & Derngate visit their website at http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk

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