Sometimes words feel unworthy of the task when it comes to describing and reviewing a performance, especially a dance-piece as vibrant, colourful and joyous as this. Until direct mind-transfer is invented, however, we’re stuck with words… so here we go!
Costumes stretch and alter the very shape of the human body in memorable and exciting ways.
Aracaladanza are a Spanish contemporary dance company which specialises in show for younger audiences and their families. Constellations – arguably among the biggest shows at this year’s Imaginate Edinburgh Children’s Theatre Festival – is largely inspired by the surreal dream-like aspects of the 20th century painter, sculptor and ceramicist Joan Miró. It starts with the show’s five performers hidden behind a black drape, each holding a torch pointed at the audience like new-born stars against the stellar darkness; from this low-key beginning, the show slowly but surely bursts into spots and waves of vivid colour – purple, red, yellow, green, blue – and movement, occasionally slipping from live performer to cartoon projection on the rear screen, and then back again.
There is a frenetic explosive feel to the whole thing: knitted balls grow in size; huge swathes of fabric move like the sea and are then pulled away like a never-ending dress. A trio of red balls of string become a charming puppet animal. There’s a dance sequence with what look like shuffling towels. Costumes stretch and alter the very shape of the human body in memorable and exciting ways. And, yes, some of the cast take turns to – seemingly randomly, though obviously not – ride a bicycle across the stage from time to time, although 21st century health concerns presumably stop them from smoking a fish while doing so for the full surrealistic touch.
The uninhibited athleticism of the performers is ideally matched by a deceptively simple – and at times deliberately repetitive – choreography, while the whole package is wrapped up with some excellent use of lighting and a bold, rhythmic score that barely pauses for breath from one scenario to the next. There’s no real narrative as such; just an overriding sense of joyous play that young and old can understand, regularly punctuated by the kind of “wow” moments that must surely stay with children for all their lives. And yet there is still enough room for a genuinely explosive climax of colour and movement – though perhaps I’m betraying my age when I thought, leaving the auditorium, that Constellations must be a very time-consuming show to tidy up and pack away afterwards!