VERVE’s striking triple bill at The Place

Words by Katie Hagan.

VERVE Dance Company ripcurled into The Place, London to perform a striking triple bill of work danced by some of the most exciting performers internationally and created by world-renowned choreographers: Matteo Marfoglia, Joy Alpuerto Ritter and (LA) HORDE.

The evening kicked off with a hot pinky piece by VERVE Artistic Director Matteo Marfoglia. Wearing these gorgeous fuchsia colour hooded dresses – Greek goddessy, folky, Dune-y in their vibe – the dancers twirl, contract, bend and unravel during A Field of Beauty.

After sequences of infinity-arching backs and looping limbs, giant gold coins are wheeled in. A choreographic device used as scene changers, at different points dancers guide them around like dance partners, and as they do so, they catch the light, creating a disco in the theatre. Under a spotlight and using the gold coin as a podium of sorts, one dancer twists and curls her arms, statue-like in her poise.

Marfoglia’s work felt like watching a whirling display of beauty throughout the ages, from classicism to modernity, and both the continuities and differences throughout these epochs.

The different types of beauty came through particularly strong with the use of the choreography and sound. Tribal drums set a very ancestral mood, and opera music brought a high-society nineteenth century feel. The choreography during this section felt liberative; in the sense it didn’t necessarily follow the opera music’s cadence, actually, it jarred with it. I liked this difference, this friction, within the context of a piece that wants to resist traditional concepts of beauty, and showcase how it means different things to different people.

Image by Elly Welford.

Forget-me-not by Joy Alpuerto Ritter comes after A Field of Beauty. There’s been a lot of flowers in contemporary dance this year, with Pina Bausch’s Nelken, and this piece was no exception. Forget-me-not opens with the dancers all holding, dancing and moving with flowers. It’s a modern pastoral painting in motion with the dancers dressed in country-style outfits.

If there was a sun in the theatre, it would be shining. Forget-me-not is a series of vignettes showing the precious moments of family get-togethers. The group of dancers flock around a couple as if it’s their wedding, a bouquet is thrown into the air, there is slow dancing. In a separate motif, happy birthday is sung. Everything is very wistful, bewitching, like a scene you’d see in a snow globe.

There is a lovely mix of group and then individual moments; highlighting times when you need to be together and then other times where you have to be alone to process the togetherness. Forget-me-not shows the sunnier side of family life, but also looks at the dysfunctionality, exemplified by one dancer who breaks away, liberated from the pretence of it all.

The evening ends with LA HORDE’s People used to die. A rework of the original choreographic piece Avant les gens mouraient, originally created in 2014 for l’Ecole de danse contemporaine de Montreal, People used to die is a feat of pure, unadorned, uninterrupted locomotive motion. The cool Western Europe electronic club scene is the perfect canvas for the youthful VERVE group to show off their moves and sacrifice their bodies to movement.

The premise of the work is this: that the movement never stops. It takes on the form of a beaty four wall line dance (think Candy, Saturday Night) but at a faster tempo. Dancers can come and go, and take a break from the dance behind the silver railings, but its life must always go on. The group has to push through to keep the movement going, and they do so with such infectious conviction and physicality. Unrelenting and totally unafraid, People used to die explores how we want to savour the time we have being young and to make an impact on the world, even though time is slipping through our fingers.