Tuesday, July 22, 2008


at the Civic


Harder, better, faster, stronger”; the opening routine, choreographed, like much of the work, by Jemma Sawyer, was relentlessly energetic in hoodies and masks. But its title could well stand for the ethos of the whole evening.

Essex Dance Theatre, led by the inspirational Debbie Holme, has encouraged generations of young people to express themselves physically. Their community work reaches parts where traditional dance schools rarely venture, and their work is invariably challenging and exciting: the loose-limbed jive of The Red Light's On, the emotional punch of the opening of Pin Ball Wizard, the empowered good-time girls, elegant in little black dresses, in Big Spender, and the spectacular ending to I Know Where I've Been, choreographed by David Nurse.

Some of the most impressive work on show here was prepared by students for their exams. Craig Wakeling's Retroactive 1964, inspired by the iconic Rauschenberg, for which Craig prepared the music track and also discussed his ideas with the artist just before his death in May. And the more traditional Narcissi, with Craig joined by Josie Pavely. And Mendisi Tshuma's powerful autobiographical piece, expressing his feelings about his native Zimbabwe and his exile in Essex.

There was tap, the hard-to-avoid Hairspray, two successful audition pieces, and to end, the EDT's signature piece, The Knowledge.

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