Family ties were explored in two markedly different ways in this hip hop dance double bill. In Man Up, it was a devastating look at the father-daughter bond, for which Kloé Dean drew on personal experience.
Dean, who performs with Boy Blue Entertainment and is the founder of the all-female crew Myself UK, knows how to pack an emotional punch. Her piece started with her alone on stage, her shadow cast up the back wall, fighting to stop her right hand grabbing her throat. Struggling with her own body, she had flashes where she looked to her audience and tried to appear insouciant, as though nothing were wrong. It set up, with heartbreaking simplicity, the theme of disguised inner turmoil, and the visual motif of a hand round the neck or throat.
Dean mixed spoken word with muscular movement as she explained her parents’ break-up and showed her deep love for her father, played by Sean Graham. As the pair played children’s games together, Stefano Addaie’s dark, hunched figure, head covered, appeared in the shadows, distracting Dad, luring him away, finally controlling and dominating him. It was a compelling depiction of a person overwhelmed, whether by mental health issues or addiction.
Dean, robbed of her adored father’s presence in her life, was bewildered, distraught, then surly, spiky, aggressive. A segment where all three were caught in their own spotlights, consumed in frantic motion, spoke volumes. The long blue nylon rope she brought out, coiling it round her hands, arms and neck with fascinated reverence, signalled the tragic ending of this story; her father was found hanged in 2012. Dean’s piece, which she is still developing, is an eloquent elegy, and a movingly effective plea to consider what might be churning behind a man’s cheery façade.
The dynamic between siblings was the driving force behind AlShe/Me (pronounced “alchemie” in French) from the Rennes-based Linda Hayford. This battle-hardened hip hop dancer started learning popping from the age of ten from her elder brother, Mike – and here the pair performed together, examining their relationship in a subtle piece that used shadowing, mirroring, repetition and identity switching. It was hard to gauge the connection between them, though, as both were stone-faced throughout, and the movement was sometimes too rationed to keep you fully engaged. But a burst of rhythmic accompaniment and joyful energy at the end finally brought out a smile on Linda’s face and provided a flash of real, heart-warming entertainment.