The Cocoon Review

Blue Elephant Theatre – 4 March 2020

Reviewed by Claire Roderick

3.5 ***

The Blue Elephant’s Elefeet Dance Festival opens with Coalesce Dance Theatre’s exciting exploration and celebration of women. Sharing the stories and experiences of women’s groups in Manchester, Coalesce have devised an uplifting production encompassing the highs and lows of the female experience.

The company, Rachel Maffei and Fern Wareham (who also direct the piece), Jemma Stein, Rebecca Callow and Jenna Nathan, have a glorious sense of unity, with fantastic energy and sisterhood in the group routines, and a sense of sympathetic focus as they watch solo numbers from the side of the stage.

Richard Smithson’s score moves from the soothing soundscape of the seaside to driving high energy Bates seamlessly, matching the mood of each story being told. From the memories of a mother whose job opportunities were so limited in the 60s giving advice to her ambitious daughter to stories of love and being trapped in repetitive behaviours and relationships, the poetic, sparse language compliments the movement of the dancers as they convey more of the emotions of the storyteller than words can through the bold and sometimes hypnotic choreography. Some of the repeated movements representing lack of control and freedom make more and more impact throughout the show, with the company helping each other up and never letting each other fall. There is welcome humour in one section representing the importance of friendship and laughter.

Such powerful stories need powerful dancers, and the entire company are a joy to watch as they demonstrate the pain, joy and strength behind these women’s stories. An inspiring and emotional show.