Ireland’s award-winning CoisCéim Dance Theatre embrace spontaneity with a multi-layered exploration of non-verbal communication. Josephine Balfour-Oatts reviews Body Language:

Inspired by its audience, no two performances of Body Language are the same. Created in real time, CoisCéim Dance Theatre make innovative use of multimedia in their analysis of non-verbal communication.

Body Language Dance Base
CoisCéim Dance Theatre (image courtesy of Ros Kavanagh)

Designed by Christopher Ash, the space is a canvas – white and lacquered, decorated with cushions. Spectators are invited to sit onstage, with one asked to join Ash and his camera. The walls begin to take on the appearance of a film reel. Still photographs catch the participant as she moves between emotional states, the camera running its eye across the crowd behind.

Body Language is beautiful – like stepping inside a photo album. To experience it is to float on the surface of the ocean – safe, supported by the brine and blue. Though this sense of safety tends to become prolonged, leaving the viewer aching for a change of pace.

Body Language Dance Base
CoisCéim Dance Theatre (image courtesy of Ros Kavanagh)

David Bolger’s choreography is garnered from the pictures that line the walls. Without speaking, a group of four set to work, taking the audience as their muse. CoisCéim do well to challenge the notion of a passive spectator.

Suspended consistently between interactivity and observation, Body Language has great potential. Shifts in tempo – when they arrive – help to motor intrigue, with compositions (by Michael Fleming) working to build tension. Indeed, the strengths present within Body Language can be found in the smallest of details. Sudden drumbeats encourage a tribal, earthy feeling – as though hurtling into prehistory – and the walls start to take the shape of cave paintings.

Body Language Dance Base
CoisCéim Dance Theatre (image courtesy of Ros Kavanagh)

The collision of the real and projected self gives Body Language texture. As an entirely organic and bespoke experience, this impressive study of non-verbal communication, speaks volumes. However, it is all too easy to drift off between waves of action. CoisCéim need not be afraid of diving deeper, indulging in more creative risk-taking so as to really anchor the attention of their audience.

★★★☆☆

Body Language is now playing at Dance Base until 25 August 2019. For more information or to buy tickets, please visit the festival website.