August 11, 2022

Bridging The Void – an intelligent and interesting idea at @BETCamberwell

As part of the Elefeet Dance Festival at the Blue Elephant Theatre, Camberwell, ‘Experiential Dance’ performed Bridging The Void, a work created by choreographer and film artist Rachel Johnson. Drawing its inspiration from the Native American saying ‘Every Night is followed by Sunrise’, Bridging The Void aims to recreate the experience of a sunrise, bringing together film, dance and music in an immersive theatre setting.

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The piece begins in pitch darkness. Without sight, the other senses are awakened, an experience that is at once unsettling and exciting and which creates a tantalising energy in the space. The attention is drawn to the sound of the dancers moving against the floor, accompanied by an amplified sound of heavy breathing – an effect which was a little overdone. Still, it creates an eerie atmosphere, eventually broken by the coming sunrise.

The gradual progression of the sunrise throughout this piece, portrayed both on film and through the increasing lightness of the space, provides an effective visual accompaniment to the dance and music. The three dancers relish in the glow of an orange light that cleverly echoes the rising sun on the projected film, their movement reflecting something between a welcoming of the sun and god-like worship. There are some interesting connections between the live movement and what is seen on film, and a particularly charming moment when the sunlight moves “off” the screen in the form of hand-held lights in the dancers’ palms. This combination between dance and visuals makes for an enjoyable experience, however the movement is a little repetitive on occasions and generally the piece could have benefited from some further development of its images.

As an immersive work, there is no seating and the audience are free to wander around the space, close to the dancers who move through and around them. The personal experience this creates is one of the strengths of the performance, although there are times when moments of movement get lost behind larger groups of people. The space at the Blue Elephant Theatre was a little restrictive in this sense but it’s an exciting concept to play with, one which could lend a uniqueness to each performance.

Bridging The Void presents an intelligent and interesting idea and Johnson’s desire to create an experience for her audience holds the potential for making this a captivating piece. The film work is beautiful and the music, composed for the production by James Welland, is equally moving; a subtle and perfectly balanced accompaniment. Bridging The Void just needs a little more drive in its performance and a greater fluidity in the interplay between dance, lighting and visuals to reach its true potential.

by Rachel Elderkin

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