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saints and sinners of the stage and screen

What The Soul Can't Hide/Harbour
The Blue Elephant Theatre
6th October 2012


Heather Cupid in Harbour

Photography supplied by The Blue Elephant Theatre

Dancer and choreographer Heather Cupid opened the Blue Elephant's season with two short pieces of dance titled What The Soul Can't Hide and Harbour. Both are raw, unfinished works in progress based on Cupid's own personal experiences.

The first, What The Soul Can't Hide, is about conflict. Andrea Queens, together with Cupid, depict two individuals, going through the same experience. Both dancers are dressed simply, in black leggings and checked shirts, with the only difference between them the colour. Queens, with her red check, seems angrier and more aggressive. Cupid, entering later, with her blue/green check seems more contemplative and calmer.

When they move, initially they are just two people in the same space, rather than two people dancing together. Movements are often sudden, edgy and fierce - but they are always fluid and controlled. At one point, Queens and Cupid look each other in the eye and this acknowledgement seems to be awkward or uncomfortable as when they continue to move, they begin to share spaces, touching each other briefly in gestures of what seem more like defiance rather than solidarity.

The piece begins in silence, with only a gentle whirring from the theatre equipment. The stage is bare and as mentioned, the outfits are plain. This performance is completely raw and exposed. It's brave and it's powerful.

The soundtrack, when it does kick in halfway through, is chosen and edited especially for the piece and a clever choice. In particular, when the two women dance separately in the same space to the same one beat, their common ground, whether or not they admit it, is emphasised clearly and it's really rather beautiful.

In Cupid's second piece, Harbour, the performance begins with video footage of herself, before Queens and third dancer, Rachael Foster, join her on the stage for live movement. Musician Pere Joseph Vilaplana adds percussion, which complements the three women's dance well.

The initial projection has a home movie feel to it, rather than being a particularly slick piece of camera work. Whether deliberate or due to time constraints, this fits with the personal feel to Cupid's stories. This is one migrant's journey from an old home to a new one, it's not a tale of something that changed history for everyone, but for one person and their generations to follow. It's an intimate story and the footage stays true to that.

In the film, Cupid appears to us on a ship, then on a beach, making large sweeping movements with her hands and feet, trying to form a connection with this new environment and find her way.

The live dance work from Cupid, Queens and Foster has a real Afro-Caribbean flavour to it. All three dancers wear brightly-coloured dresses and carry with them boldly-patterned cloth bundles. Here, unlike in What The Soul Can't Hide, the movement is about integration, rather than separatism and conflict. The dancers are aware of each other and move together, at times in perfect synchronisation.

Cupid eventually hopes to double the length of both pieces and certainly, the material showcased at the Blue Elephant shows promise. The performances may not yet be finished, but the parts that are do move and inspire. There is a beginning to both and as far as beginnings go, this is a great way to kick off Autumn 2012.

What The Soul Can't Hide/Harbour ran from 4th to 6th October 2012 at the Blue Elephant Theatre.

Nearest tube station: Oval (Northern)

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