Break dancers, lone man in suits & woman with walking aids

Graduation show Tour de Force as diverse as Amsterdam itself

Ten years ago the faculty of Dance in Education started a curriculum Transculural Contemporary Dance with influences from other cultures, as diverse as Amsterdam itself. This year’s sixteen graduation pieces in Tour de Force were a testimony to the students’ passion for working with diverse audiences and communities. Our ‘outside eye’ Funmi Adewole reflects on their work.

Tour de Force was a testament to the graduating students’ choreographic skill and their social literacy, and it was successful showing of their work. For the most part, they displayed an understanding of dance as a social activity as well as an art form, and payed attention to visual design as well the visceral connection with the audience. 

Mythical feel
The opening piece Silence communicated tension. Jill Bolemsma created an inventive movement vocabulary for her dancers, utilising strong gestures and shapes and stances to a hypnotic beat. Solitude or Belonging by Jason Vayro shared the wonder of dancing in tune with another person. Vayro had his two male dancers perform with looks of wonder on their faces in front of a large image of nature, giving the piece a mythical feel. Relationship was also the theme of Alone/Together by Gino Sanders, danced by six young people. They performed a dance vocabulary that moved back and forth between urban dance moves and expressionistic gestures.

Lone man in a suit
Peter Pan by Roos Beentjes was a hilarious performance in which two friends bother another man, wearing a suit and sitting alone until he sheds his jacket and joins them dancing. The bubbliest of the three man spoils the fun, however, by alienating the other two with his self-indulgent display of dance steps. There were priceless observations of human behaviour.
Sharing the experience of dance was definitely one of the aims of Caroline Haugsted, who choreographed Quem olha para dentro, acorda. She invited the audience to come on stage and stand in a circle around the two performers of a Zouk dance. Up close there was the opportunity to see their facial expressions and enter further into the drama of their dance. 

Club after work
One of the most successful pieces of the evening was cast through social media. Lass Los by Fleur Bomelijn populated the stage with adults who seemed to be office workers in their mid-twenties to thirties. I imagined they were stopping over at a club after work to dance. The group dynamics and the idiosyncrasies of individual dancers were a joy to watch, and with Bomelijn’s skilful crafting their visceral experience circulated around the room.

Two children

Some of the pieces made their impact by introducing us to the dancers themselves. One of these was Zephyr by Christine Karani, a delicate piece performed by two children and a female drummer. Dressed in white they performed the set choreography together and there was a solo piece around the drummer. It was magical seeing each child express their personality.
Meeting dancer Larissa Koopman in Richting choreographed by Annemieke Mooij was equally magical. Koopman danced with power and sensitivity, like an amalgamation of a boxer and a ballerina. By the end the audience was willing her on to arrive wherever she was going and achieve whatever she wanted.  

Break dancers
What Box…? by Mike Veerman demanded rapt attention. I think this came from the fact the performers were so attentive to each other. It was danced by a young dancer and two older women using walking aids. The piece placed value on inner strength, made visible through minimal and carefully delivered movement and clear sections which lead to a satisfying conclusion.
BOOMBox by Tim Kromhout introduced us to some fine break dancers from The Hague. Kromhout created a choreographic structure in which his dancers could display their virtuosity and yet perform expressively. For me these pieces showed the choreographer’s ability to draw on the unique strengths, qualities and journeys of their dancers to create interesting performances.

Two pieces which used spoken word – although in completely different ways – were Een korreltje zout is niet nodig… by Rebecca Wijnruit and Virago by Jeanne van Beek. As a non-Dutch speaker, I enjoyed the wittiness and geekiness of Wijnruit’s piece. The three characters shared their musings with the audience as they danced alone or together. Judging from the audience reaction I felt the choreographer had created a piece of intelligent comedy. Jeanne van Beek employed a beautiful singer/spoken-word artist to perform the famous poem by Maya Angelou, Phenomenal Woman. The two women danced a duet after the narration of this poem, which explored pain and beauty.

Natural Hair Movement

Another piece exploring a theme about women was Braided, Twisted, Nappy by Marley Braaf. He looked at the politics of hair for the black woman. Like Fleur Bomelijn he found some of his performers through the Facebook page of The Natural Hair Movement. Marley explored hair from various perspectives using projection, wigs and boxes on which his six female dancers stood from time to time, displaying in turn their confidence and insecurities. 

Use of space
These last three pieces go together in my mind due to the way their choreographers used space. The stories unfold along with the pathways of motion the dancers created. Fly Free by Aurora Versloot is a duet in which two women who share a close bond, dance. At the end one woman is left alone with the memories of the person she has lost. Future Flights by Aureline D’Haese is an exploration of various positions of support performed by four female dancers and a live musician. Lignes by Fabienne van Eldik was also a group piece. The beautiful choreography had the five young dancers fill the space using a variety of formations going onto and from the floor.

The graduating students were eclectic in their dance-making, drawing on conventions from experimental dance, popular culture and theatre. The work displayed their engagement with the stuff of life, and several of the pieces could be successfully adapted for performance at festivals, conferences, educational institutions and the street!

Tour de Force
Sixteen graduating students showed their work in Tour de Force on 23 and 24 February 2018. A mentor supported each student as they made their pieces working with dancers-in-training, city workers and amateurs from community projects. The students had only seven to ten rehearsals to make a quality performance.

The student-organised event Ongoing will be held on 28 and 29 June 2018. Visitors will be able to participate in workshops given by graduating students on their best practices. You will be able to watch the best graduation pieces from Tour de Force and a piece made by the whole graduation group together with Anne Suurendonk.