Cia Maduixa’s show DOT gives a vibrant, mesmerizing introduction to optical art and movement for children. The Spanish company, originally from Valencia and presented by Dance Umbrella, seem to have found the vital ingredients for capturing the imaginations of children in this hipster, hi-tech feast of graphics, dance and mime.
It’s refreshingly simple and naïve. Dancer (Laia Sorribes) is in charge of keeping a white wall clean and free from stains. She’s all pristine and in control, as she pats down her crisp cullotes and gestures emphatically to her beloved wall. Breathy with child-like excitement, she dances through her custodial duties. Soon however her immaculate wall and ordered life are thrown into disarray by the arrival of a strange, shy boy (Ezquiel Gil), who reveals a purple stain on his finger tip. DOT, as she calls the nameless boy who has neither origin nor destination, touches the white wall and covers it with colourful dots. From here their dotty adventures begin.
The wild dots lead the bewitched couple on a fanciful, technicoloured, journey: they grow into huge balls, or diminish into tiny spots; they join up to form horizontal lines or become a gushing river. They formulate horizontal and vertical patterns; they even morph into a whale, a bicycle, a rocket or a house. Sorribes and Gil have to dodge them as they pour down like giant hail stones. But they float up too, like balloons into the sky. Not even the artist Bridget Riley took her dots this far.
It’s imaginative and clever. Judging from the noises of appreciation in the young audience at Stratford Circle Arts Centre, I’m not the only one who thinks so.
What makes the show so seductive is the smooth and slick integration of visual effects with movement. Joan Santacreu’s graphic design and audio visuals create a completely believable world of ephemeral scenes. The performers react to the digital imagery as if they were 3D material objects, sitting on them, juggling with them or pushing them away. We can feel their weight, texture and volume. Further on into the piece the graphics become different cultural spaces, a night-club, a forest, a kitchen, in which the performers fleetingly inhabit, before dancing on.
The choreographic blend of dance, gymnastics and mine by Mamen Garcia is highly expressive but never detracts from the visuals. Each component is equally strong. The lo-fi music with its graininess and non-commercial beats is refreshingly different from the hackneyed music that often accompanies children’s shows. DOT also avoids ingratiating slapstick while still being charmingly comical through the touching personalities of its performers.
There’s something particularly moving about the tiny purple laser speck which Gil passes on to Sorribes before he departs. This little ray of light transforms her sadness into absolute joy as she stains her wall with constellations of colour.