Magpies lift you up

PUBLISHED: 16:27 01 July 2009 | UPDATED: 17:18 16 August 2010

A FAST-PACED collaboration of dance and movement set to a jazzy score of pulsing music made for an entertaining and uplifting show, writes Eileen Strong.

A FAST-PACED collaboration of dance and movement set to a jazzy score of pulsing music made for an entertaining and uplifting show, writes Eileen Strong.

It was the first time the Magpie Dance Company had flown their Bromley nest for their debut performance at Deptford's Albany Theatre on June 23.

It was my first encounter with the inclusive dance company, and I was highly impressed that their union of youths and adults - with and without learning disabilities - resulted in six refreshing and uplifting performances. Kicking the night off was Acquaintance, a touching duet choreographed by Kate Rosie, as part of Magpie's mentoring scheme. As a sweeping score led into a playful Scottish jig, a couple of props were thrown in to up the element of fun. Peter Taylor deftly pivoted around his upturned umbrella, while Melissa Spiccia nimbly leapt through a flurry of ribbons.

From unison movements they built to partner work - pushing, pulling and supporting each other like the best of friends. Following a saxophonist onto the stage, the youth showed off their dynamic moves in Up-Side-Down. The performance lived up to its name, with arm movements going in all directions - from snake-like to swimming, to angular aeroplanes. Set to accented jazz, this piece gave everyone a taste of the young dancers' individual styles, whilst pair work provided the less confident cast members a chance to shine.

Going Live featured a brightly-clad bunch of adults, some veterans to Magpie, but all with different strengths - be it expressive floor work or pose striking.

Making good use of the width of the stage, they displayed their brand of lively, contemporary jazz and ensured the first half's ending was as upbeat as the band's funky music.

Holding Pattern was the night's most physically challenging work. As eight dancers explored a contemporary-influenced vocabulary of lunging, leaning, arm wraps and swings, to a rhythmic drum solo, there was impressive control and musical-awareness.

Passion had something of a dramatic atmosphere - whether it was the trio of gondoliers, or the bursts of organ music, it's no surprise choreographer Hugh Willoughby was influenced by Phantom of the Opera. The evening ended on a high with the aptly-named Positive Expressions.

A gang of young hoodies responded to a soundtrack of heartbeats, in this lively lesson in urban attitude.

I've seen other contemporary dance companies try much more earnestly to get across a sentiment and fail, but Magpie's message of inclusiveness and ability is gently conveyed with great success.

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