Cascade, performed by Motionhouse Dance Theatre focuses on a family’s race against the clock to escape the ever-flowing floodwaters that have already seen their home submerged. Read my full review and interview with Motionhouse dancer Alasdair Stewart after the break.
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The family’s rooftop plays host to a tale of relationships, seeking salvation and destruction as the audience are transported through a forever-moving dance piece encapsulating the ferocity of the torrential waves. I thought the piece was fantastic as it had a very clear narrative, which made for a compelling watch. I thought all four dancers were fantastic, displaying an array of tricks, acrobatics and lifts, which define Motionhouse’s performance style down to a tee. They brought the world of this struggling family to life, which made me root for their freedom even more. The simple setting of the rooftop and the lamppost was reminiscent of the bird’s eye view images that are depicted in the news when natural disasters such as this are documented. The fact that the performance was situated outdoors definitely contributed to the atmosphere, adding a sense of dancing against the natural elements. This was a performance that gained the attention of audience members from different walks of life, which for me spoke volumes as dance can transcend and break barriers. This for me was a rollercoaster of a dance piece that took me on an emotional journey. All in all, I give Cascade a 4/5.
After Motionhouse’s captivating performance of ‘Cascade’, I was lucky enough to grab a few words with Motionhouse dancer Alasdair Stewart, who has trained as a gymnast and competed in national championships from the age of nine. He’s worked with the likes of Full Force Dance Company’s Helen Parlor, Artistic Director Hofesh Shechter of the Hofesh Shechter Company and joined Motionhouse for ‘Scattered’ back in 2009.
Who for you are your influences?
I saw Motionhouse performing when I was doing my A-Levels. They came to the Point Theatre in Eastleigh, which is where I did my A-Level training. Seeing Motionhouse’s work was really like, that’s the company I want to dance for. That’s what I want to be doing. It fused all of the acrobatics from my gymnastics training, has a theatrical essence to it and contemporary dance, it was just everything I really enjoyed. Helen Parlor was a dancer for Motionhouse at that time, she was performing in this piece ‘Perfect’, so that was quite nice working with her company (Full Force Company) and then watching her perform with Motionhouse. Jonathan Goddard from Richard Alston Dance Company was also really inspirational. Watching him perform was mesmerising because he’s a really good dancer and you’d watch him on stage and in my opinion he just shone. Your eyes just wanted to watch him all the time. There’s other companies like Jasmin Vardimon, Hofesh Schecter, Frantic Assembly, DV8, Fabulous Beast, there’s so many. When I was a student, I literally went to the theatre every week to see as much as I could.
You joined Motionhouse for Scattered back in 2009, what is it like to work with Kevin Finnan?
Kevin’s great. Kevin’s awesome. I was actually very shocked I’d got the job. I was very young; I’d just graduated from The Place. The first month and a half was hectic because I was doing 5 days a week with Motionhouse and Hofesh at the weekends performances so it was really busy, but it was great. It was a really nice first experience making ‘Scattered’ because we were working in the studio everyday with Kevin just getting to know each other as a company and that was really good. Kevin and Louisa are such a great team; the two of them really work well together and I get on great with both of them. I really enjoy the fact that the company feels like a family, they’ve really nurtured that kind of relationship amongst everyone who works for them.
Did you ever imagine from the very moment you joined Motionhouse that you would be taking part in such a performance as ‘The Voyage’?
No. When I joined Motionhouse it was this middle scale touring Dance Company. There were 5 people in the Company when I knew it. I never ever thought that we would be doing something on the scale of The Voyage. It was once we saw the set, how big it was, and all the performers that were coming to join us for it. There were 16 Motionhouse performers, from 5, it’s so different and it was an amazing experience because there were so many new people to learn from. There’s a nice mix in the company where we teach one
another, we learn from each other. We teach each other our skills and that’s what unites us. We had the Legs On The Wall people from Australia and they just had the most incredible acrobatic skills and were so willing to share and teach us. It was only when we saw the videos of it that we really understood the spectacle of the set, the projection, the costume, the lights, it was a real team effort. Kevin and Patrick were amazing in bringing together such a productive team.
Describe a day in the life of a Motionhouse performer.
There’s a typical day, which would be at our base in Leamington where we’d go into the studio for about 9 o’clock and do our own warm up. Then we’d do a class, which could be anything from contemporary dance to ballet to acrobatics to cardio training to contact improvisation to theatre workshops. We’ll do that for an hour and a half and then have some more time to stretch. Then we’d normally go to our warehouse space, which is where our sets are. We’ve blacked out all the windows because of the video projection in our shows. We’d rehearse whichever show we’re rehearsing and that usually takes us through to 6.30pm. The untypical Motionhouse day would be when we’re on tour. Then you never really know what you are going to get.
What has been your favourite Motionhouse performance?
My favourite show is ‘Cascade’ because it’s narrative (based). I really like the theatricality and I really like the way the story is linear and it starts and it builds and finishes. It’s quite straightforward and as a performer you can keep that narrative in your brain and it carries you through the whole show. I also enjoy performing the outdoor shows because you can see the audience. On the street you can see people’s faces, you can look into their eyes and you feel their energy. You’re taking them on a journey but you get caught up in the emotion of it.
What advice do you have for aspiring dancers/performers?
One of the biggest pieces of advice I got when I was doing my A-Levels wasn’t advice so much, was more an awareness to the fact that it’s such a competitive industry. You’ve got to have the commitment to it. It doesn’t really matter where you train, it’s about what you put into it. If you choose to put in 100%, then you’ll get 100%. You have to be strong willed and have a good attitude. You’ve got to have a passion and a love for it that will just keep you going no matter what. The other thing is to be versatile. You can train as a dancer and be really good but a lot of companies these days require you to do a lot of other things as well, so if you can get some theatre performance going, if you can be confident using your voice, possibly singing, acrobatics or other physical performance work it’s all going to benefit you.
For more information on the Motionhouse cast and crew, visit their website