Cloud Study – Smock Alley – Review
21 – 24 Nov | 8pm | 2pm Sat Matinee | Boys’ School
This is a new production by John Scott’s Irish Modern Dance Theatre company that aims to be “part dance, part dream, part theatre, part athletics”. It was first performed at the Galway International Arts Festival this year and has now found its way to Smock Alley, in Dublin. The work is for two performers, with Mufutau Yusuf, an Irishman, born in Nigeria, and Salma Ataya, a Palestinian Dabka dancer. Their international backgrounds add an exoticism to the proceedings but it also adds another element, which is their personal stories of how they arrived in Ireland and what they went through to get here.
The production starts with Salma standing centre stage, holding a microphone and making some simple introductions. She seems nervous and awkward on stage, that is until she starts to dance. She shows the audience some simple movements, explaining what they are as she goes. She is soon joined by Mufutau, who makes an explosive entrance. He runs from the highest balcony in the Boys’ school, charging down to join her on stage. The piece aims to explore running, the explosive energy and the power it brings, but it does so in a confined space without the open area that is required to express it fully.
There is also music by Ryan Vail in the piece. Vail is a Derry born musician who has become quite famous in recent years for his work on Netflix series Stranger Things. The music in this production is quite otherworldly, capturing a distant and ethereal quality, using drones and synth sounds. It is only used at sporadic locations in the production, as the dancers often perform without a backing track.
The piece allows for several spoken work sections, both in English and in the native tongues of the performers. There is even a small section of audience participation which is unusual for dance. The main thrust of the performance is a series of short, explosive bursts. There is much power expressed in these movements, especially by Mufutau who twirls and jumps around the stage like a coiled spring. While the piece is said not to be about direct provision, it is hard to ignore the comparison as the two dancers seem caged by the tiny stage of the Boy’s School, their natural power and physicality contained by the limitations of the space. It is a subtle and diverse new work that explores some interesting topics.