Smother

201 Dance Company's Smother sets out to do something very exciting. Choreographer Andrea Walker's mission objective is to tackle real issues of the LGBTQ community through the medium of dance - in this instance a mix of contemporary and hip-hop styles. He is completely correct in his assertions that particularly in the hip-hop community, the subject of homosexuality is still massively taboo. So there's a rather huge amount of expectation and responsibility inevitably lying on his shoulders.

The subject matter may not have been tackled in quite the way I had expected, but that shouldn't take away from how exciting and refreshing it was to see this kind of content.

This dance piece follows the story of two parallel same-sex relationships. Starting in a club, with an uptempo dance beat and appropriately dingy lighting, the plot then quickly delves into the realities of drug culture and its consequences. The use of white powder, sometimes blown, other times thrown or sprinkled is beautifully effective and with the company dressed in black or grey is visually stunning.

As the story develops we see our characters suffer through the emotionally unstable realities of drug use within a relationship. They struggle to connect and ultimately it comes down to issues of monogamy and trust between the pairs.

Walker has definitely struck gold with most of the dancers in this piece. They are, for the most part, incredibly dynamic and the solo pieces in particular breathe a remarkable amount of soul into the whole thing. Some of the bigger group pieces were, however, a little repetitive and occasionally a bit tired. Canon sequences in particular became predictable throughout there was a slight overuse of certain contemporary dance conventions. It was also glaringly more contemporary than hip-hop and given the premise of the show that was a little disappointing. Music choices towards the latter end also all seemed to merge into one as they were very similar and thus missed an opportunity to inject a sense of scenes changing from dance to dance.

That all being said this is a polished and moving show. The subject matter may not have been tackled in quite the way I had expected, but that shouldn't take away from how exciting and refreshing it was to see this kind of content. The price of the ticket is worth the solo pieces alone and Walker is definitely onto something very exciting with his ideas. I just would have liked to see a little more colour in the choreography and music which I'm sure would bring these amazing dancers even more to life. 

Reviews by Hannah Lucy Baker

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Performances

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The Blurb

Can you stay true to yourself, when everything suggests you change? 201’s raw, contemporary hip-hop returns in Smother: a story of two men's broken encounter. After sell-out performances in New York and London, this groundbreaking production touches on themes of addiction, obsession, and the meaning of commitment. Choreographer Andrea Walker directs a cast of seven dancers in a fast-paced, intimate performance, exploring the relationship of two young men. ‘Superb ... a piece that is at once raw, skilful and intoxicating.’ (LGBTQArtsandCultureReview.com). ‘Infectious ... an intense urban fairytale of addiction and obsession’ (ThePlace.org.uk, Resolution Review).

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