This evocative dance performance is as notable for the process by which it was made as it is for the quality of the final product. Bristol-based Impermanence Dance theatre has taken its inspiration for this performance from Max Ernst and his novel A Little Girl Dream of Taking the Veil, which was created as a collage from Victorian-era novels (presumably naughty, gothic ones) and medical textbooks.As the title of this dance work suggests, Ernst was a part of the Dada art movement of the early 20th century, which among other things, favoured collaborative or collage-style work, also giving rise to surrealism.

At times nightmarish, chilling and bizarre, moments of lightness and tenderness emerge.

The dance piece was devised with each of the seven dancers choreographing sections, basing each minute of performance on a page of the novel.

The result is surreal and compelling. At times nightmarish, chilling and bizarre, moments of lightness and tenderness emerge. There’s a lot going on in this piece and the narrative is not entirely clear – but this doesn’t matter. Repetition of movements creates recurring motifs in the imagery. There’s a sense of characters and journey – two twinned female dancers, separated travelling through a tangle of strange scenes. In some places there is vocalisation from the acts – sounds of breath, of joy, of surprise, of desperation, and I would like to be better able to hear this in some places over the music. The score itself is excellent, conjuring up a sense of different environments and different moods.

Making the piece with this collage-style process hasn’t resulted in a disjointed work. In fact, the seams between one choreographer’s section and the next are not always apparent. Instead it operates more like chapters, with different characters taking the foreground at different points. Some humorous moments emerge at just the right points in the performance – lurid provocative posturing by a man in leopard-print underpants, the other male performers appearing later in outrageous disco dresses. Costuming is lavish and makeup accentuates often grotesque facial expressions.

Strong on imagery, this is a playful and bizarre performance that had everyone leaning forward in their seats; it’s successful in translating Ernst’s novel into a different artistic form.

Reviews by Emma Gibson

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The Blurb

Seven virtuoso performers combine in a thrilling surrealist piece of dance. A spellbinding and titillating look at Max Ernst’s unnerving collage-novel, A Little Girl Dreams of Taking the Veil, from the glamorous new force in dance-theatre, Impermanence. Created collaboratively by the performers, Da-Da-Darling is dreamlike entertainment full of love, sex and disorientation… Visions of broken milk teeth, fluttering dragonflies, writhing flesh, and a band of leech-charmers appear, as the performers’ bodies, clothed in timeless attire, oscillate between a story of innocence and sin… ‘Poetic, energetic, racy, vintage, stylish ... their connection with the audience was electric’ (Simon Casson, Duckie).