Review: Dance Exposé presents... ‘The Good Life’

5/5

Last weekend saw me excitedly positioned on the front row, for the final night of this year’s highly-anticipated annual show, from the union’s dance troupe: Dance Exposé.

The concept of the show is simple: 35 songs following the different stages of our journey through life. From conception through to death, the show combines a vast array of styles and genres to cover everything from falling in love to getting fired. A fantastic concept – but I just wasn’t prepared for the power it brought with it.  If someone had told me before the show that I’d be in floods of tears by the end, I’d have been sceptical. Dance shows like this may be exciting and beautiful, and they most certainly have a knack for making me feel incredibly inadequate in terms of both body and talent! But emotional? Dance has never really done it for me in that way.

Until ‘The Good Life’.

The show begins with the stunningly fragile ‘Conception’. No, it’s not a raunchy sex scene played out under the guise of dance.  Rather, each dancer represents a cell, which slowly pair up, then quadruple up, finding more and more cells until they form a clump, slowly, mesmerizingly. Of course the mood is killed a little by my struggling to supress a giggle when the girl presumably symbolising the sperm is ceremoniously pulled into the clump. But a soothing soundtrack of ‘Teardrop’ by Massive Attack does the trick and ensures that this ambitious concept is effective in catching the audience’s attention… attention that will be unwavering for the next two hours.

The early years of our hypothetical protagonist are played out in the first act, as we see them grow from child to young adult. I particularly enjoyed the gleeful, carefree ‘First Day of Primary School’, fantastically choreographed by Abigail Glading and Claire Williams.  The former’s choreography of the touching ‘Bullying’ is undoubtedly some of the strongest in the show, with ‘Loneliness’ following suite, sound-tracked somewhat predictably by Coldplay’s ‘Fix You’. The ability of the dancers to act out the emotions of these songs whilst dancing so impeccably is seriously enviable.  

There are too many songs to mention in detail, which is regrettable because they all deserve recognition. But further into Act One, my next two favourites are the unashamedly cheesy ‘Girls Holiday’, and the wanderlust-filled ‘Travelling’.  The first sees a gaggle of female dancers clad in Kavos and Ibiza vests strutting around in sunglasses to the likes of Katy Perry and Madonna. It’s fun-filled and feel-good and I want to get up there with them! Or at least book a flight to somewhere sunny… because no-one here in Leeds needs to see my dance moves. ‘Travelling’ has a somewhat similar effect, with Imagine Dragons’ catchy ‘I’m on top of the world’ giving me itchy feet for a different kind of journey. The harem-pant army on stage may not be meditating on a beach in Goa, but the calm, zen-like quality portrayed suggests that they’re not far off. Again…can I join please?

After a brief interval (I won’t lie, this translates as tweeting time) the show resumes and ‘The Chase’ stands out as one of the most passionate dances of the show so far. It’s as feisty as it is tense, and the choreography (thanks to the fantastic Ciara Tully and Will Babarinsa) is wonderfully precise. A solid performance that really brings to life the emotions associated with chasing after the one that you desire.

Back on the drama front and ‘Behind Closed Doors’ deserves a round of applause for its sensitive portrayal of a difficult subject matter. Sound-tracked by the beautiful ‘Brother’ by Matt Corby, it is simultaneously stunning and devastating, portraying a family in crisis and on the brink of destruction.  ‘Midlife Crisis’ has much the same effect, and is even more sombre. 

But thankfully, we have a fantastic Beyoncé mash-up sandwiched between the two to lighten the mood – it’s not time for me to cry just yet. ‘Housewives’ is undoubtedly the stand-out of the FUN dances, with ample hair flicks and sass.  The choreography and costumes are flawless and I’m sure I’m not the only one in the room who is desperate to jump up on stage and join in yet again!

The show moves into its final stages now and before reaching the standard Exposé finale of backflips, bows, hugs and confetti, there’s a trio of rather special dances, that combine to reduce me to a complete wreck.

First up, the glitzy and glamorous ‘Memory Lane’ is an ode to the 1920s, as our protagonist looks back on the good old days. This is followed by some of the most hilarious choreography I’ve ever seen (congratulations Keisha-Ann Duodu) in ‘Retirement Home After Dark’. A mash-up of tracks including Chic’s ‘Freak Out’ sees a bunch of spritely pensioners street-dance whilst complaining about their aching joints. Absolute genius.

But it’s Georgie Kane’s ballet solo, entitled ‘The Good Life’, that finally does it.  It’s beautiful, haunting, hypnotic and without me realising until it’s too late, one of the pensioners is sat on a sofa dying as she watches. I did NOT see that one coming. Now feels like a more appropriate time for a reprise of Coldplay… because the tears do come streaming down my face.

So there we have it, a varied, exciting and in (many) places emotional show; all stunningly put together by an amazing team of dancers and choreographers, who have worked relentlessly to prepare this for the past few months. The time that they put in really pays off. I feel like massive kudos should be awarded to LUU Backstage Society as well, who do an amazing job at arranging the staging, the lighting, the sound bites and the visual projections that help to set the mood throughout the show. Given that all of these people are completing degrees as well, it always astounds me to see just how professional these shows are. Dance Exposé and associated posse, I salute you.  Next time, I’ll bring more tissues. 

Rosanna Pound-Woods

Photos by Leo Garbutt Photography.