Noa Genazzano 2023 at Blue Elephant | Review

Words by Katie Hagan. Performed at Blue Elephant Theatre 4-5 November.

Noa Genazzano’s 2023 performed at Blue Elephant Theatre is a moody and meditative work that gives time and space to reflect on how we can consciously move away from the murkiness of everyday life to find peace within. 

A winsome tale of new beginnings, 2023 marks Genazzano’s transition to choreography after working as a professional dancer for the likes of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Punchdrunk and Jasmin Vardimon Dance Company. These big figures in dance have had strong choreographic influences on Genazzano that are evident and clear when watching her solo

2023 starts in the dark. Only a slight beam creeps through the smoke-filled stage to gradually permeate the haze. The silhouette of a dancer, Noa, appears phantom-like, wearing all white. Suspenseful stillness occurs for just a few more moments until the sound – courtesy of composers Joe Scott and James Keane – rips into the performance space to interrupt the silence; thumpy, pumpy and bassy in its presence. 

Noa’s movement is propulsive. There are convulsive body pops as she pushes her body to its physical limits. She repeats numerous phases; this opening section emphasising the inescapable repetitiveness of daily life. As her body jerks, Noa’s face in comparison is impenetrable and stoic. Is she all too immune to the madness and monotony of what’s going on? 

A blackout ends this scene, and we find ourselves in darkness once more. Soothing yoga music comes into the space. After a punchy motif about the body-punishing daily grind, we are instructed through a voice over to breathe in and out. To take care. Is this Noa reclaiming her body? An ambery light sets the tone for this warmer section where the voiceover speaks of healing, of the “beauty of the earth’s natural rhythm”. We watch Noa – now dressed in black – who dances release sequences reminiscent of Graham technique, which are a balm to her body after the wrenching choreography in the opening section.  

What follows is a series of vignettes punctuated by returns to darkness. Whenever the lights go off Noa changes habit; the most stand-out being a white outfit that’s perhaps an ode to her time at Alvin Ailey. The clothing appears to be influenced by Ailey’s seminal work Revelations, in which the dancers wear white clothing. The choreography is equally very Revelations, with high ‘V’ shaped arms, swoops, deep bends and fan kicks. The music tingles with the sounds of gentle maracas and gulls, this section feeling escapist and redolent of times past.

The final vignette sees Noa – dressed in black again – waking up to a plastic waste-ridden environment. The music indicates we are near to water, with the sound of soft plops and lapping waves aplenty. Noa plays with the litter and makes it take on new forms, until she packs it all away into a bag to leave the stage. This final tapestry points to rather than critiques the damaging effects of plastic waste, which in the context of looking forward to 2023 in the current climate crisis, feels perhaps a little too gentle in its approach.   

Overall, Noa Genazzano’s 2023 is a colourful patchwork of conceits about reclamation, reconnection and healing after finding yourself at a loss. The choreography has clear influences from the likes of Graham and Ailey, which although part of Noa’s movement vocabulary and history, can often make 2023’s choreography – bar the first section – a little imitative. The solo does however make for a bold and gripping work, and we should be excited to see where Noa as a choreographer ventures to next.