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State of Emergency in Mission Possible: Dads & Lads Move! at The Place

Posted on March 3, 2009

State of Emergency presented a new show, Mission Possible: Dads & Lads Move! at The Place on March 3. Consisting of three individual works created by three black UK choreographers, the evening sought to “expose the male psyche” and aimed at putting “male relationships under the microscope, exploring role models and exposing male perspectives on life”. Danced by a company of five excellent male dancers, it was perhaps ironic that the work that best investigated young modern male relationships was created by the only female choreographer on the programme, Jeanefer Jean-Charles. Her work, It’s A Boy, made an excellent start to a programme that unfortunately did not add up to an exceptional or enlightening programme of dance.

It’s A Boy opens with a pair of trainers spot-lit centre stage, underlining the centrality of this item of footwear to youth culture. The company appear as a gang of young men – they could be on the streets, or they could, the choreographer suggests in her programme note, be in prison. Using a combination of deft contemporary and street dance movements, Jean-Charles suggests that aggression is never far below the surface of the friendship of this male group. Stand offs and machismo posturing sometimes melt into gentler moments, and at one point the dance turns into a soft and tender duet that unfurls to a lovely baroque aria. However, an undercurrent of violence is always hinted at. It’s A Boy is a tense work that does not flinch from depicting male aggression, but it does at least give the viewer an impression of optimism that can also emerge from close male relationships.

In Kwesi Johnson’s Wilderness, a father attempts to bond with his son on a camping trip. Autumn leaves are scattered on the floor, and two dancers try to put up a tent. Later, another dancer enters with a ball and a game of footie ensues, but what could have been an interesting and humorous premise for a dance work quickly loses its way because the choreographer relies too heavily on gimmickry involving props.

The most ambitious work of the evening, Colin Poole’s 4s:Kin, used an eclectic assortment of music from Mozart, Penderecki, Curtis Mayfield, Sex Pistols and Amy Winehouse to chart male relationships ranging from love to aggression. The work is abstract in style and uses complex movements and groupings, including a trio where each man in turn is manipulated into homoerotic poses to an exquisite aria from Riccardo Broschi’s opera Idaspe. Whilst not being particularly revelatory about male relationships, the choreography did display the talents of the dancers. Carl Harrison, Tony Mills, Kevin Muscat, Jake Nwogu and Oniel Ricardo Pryce are to be applauded for their commitment and energy to this project.

Mission Possible: Dads & Lads Move! continues to tour until April 9.

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