Illuminate at Manchester Central Library Review

24-25 November 2017

Reviewed by Jan Mellor

I had no idea what to expect as I joined the large crowd on a rainy evening outside the magnificent building that is the Central Library in Manchester. All I knew was that the event was an expression of dance to cover seven themes and was delivered by the dance group Company Chameleon.

As 9pm chimed, dancers braced the entrance to the library with one man in white and a dozen others dressed demonically in black with scarlet painted faces, this was “Overcoming the Monster” – a depiction of facing our ‘inner-demons’ and how this ’animal’ can tease and consume us at times. On this occasion, the man was able to overcome the malevolent group.

Our group were then ushered into the main hall way of the building into “Shakespeare’s Hall” to the sight of three female provocative dancers above us and three jovial male dancers around us that enticed us with the second theme “Comedy” – an apt take on Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’.

From here we were moved on – this time to a large area on the ground floor for “Voyage and Return” the third theme that depicted the impact on a man’s relationship with his lover once he had been tainted with war and the loss of comrades.

Moving onto Theme 4 “Quest” and being psychologically ‘in the ‘zone’ at this point, the group moved to the café area to view young dancers (the Chameleon Youth Group) as they portrayed their view of heroes, and a hero’s’ move to that of villain and the shift of power within each.

Stepping just away from this area we stood beside the open stairway for Theme 5 “Rags to Riches” to observe female evocative dancers who in their robotic ballet forms portrayed how the female is primarily conditioned to be regarded only in a scale of beauty that then linked to two men shown as stags with antlers and buckskin pants fighting for their status of dominance.

From this we moved to theme 6 “Tragedy” which was shown as two groups of people battling to connect with each other- focusing on the tragic ways people are disconnected and divided.

Finally (regrettably) we moved upstairs to the magnificent domed reading room with its marble pillars. Here for the final theme – “Rebirth” – dancers in pure whitened faces and ‘costumes represented the concept of rebirth and reinvention through dramatic routines that finalised in the climatic moving towards the light (shown wonderfully as the clock in the centre of the room).

The show ended to raptures of applause and an ecstatic group of amazing dancers reunited in the pivotal point of the library.

This performance was unique in many ways, firstly the ingenious use of light (hence the title) by the designer Aaron J Dootson, which accentuated the sublime dancing of all the performers, secondly the astounding vision and choreography by Kevin Turner that made this performance quite mesmerising, thirdly the skill of the performers as they turned each area into an amazing  forum of art and lastly the incredible and astounding building that housed this performance (especially for “rebirth” and the incredible finale in the domed reading room). The show was a success, the dancers incredible and I am really pleased that I took the opportunity to witness something so unique. Take the chance to see it – you’ll not see anything like it anywhere.

A truly unique performance.

Rating: 5/5

For more information and tour dates visit www.companychameleon.com.

For other events at the Manchester Central Library visit www.librarylive.co.uk.

Manchester Central Library, St Peter’s Square, Manchester, M2 5PD | 0161 234 1983
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