Elements of Freestyle

ISH Dance Collective

Birmingham Hippodrome

Birmingham International Dance Festival 2018


This spectacular show is the brain child of Artistic Director Marco Gerris who is gaining an enviable reputation as a stuntman and stunt co-ordinator for the film industry, leading his Dutch Dance company Ish.

The show itself is a new production of urban arts, an adrenaline drenched melange of sports, music, dance and theatre.

Gerris is a Filipino who grew up in Belgium, riding his bike from gymnastics to violin lessons and from judo to saxophone sessions. He trained at Antwerp’s Herman Teirlinck Drama Institute, the Higher Institute for Dance Education and the Open Living Theatre.

In the late nineties he settled in Amsterdam, where he worked as a dancer, skater and actor. He was elected Dutch freestyle skating champion and played in various productions, including the musical “Endless” and productions by the dance company AYA.

He also spent a lot of time in the Amsterdam Vondelpark where he befriended actors, dancers and skaters and made contacts. His new network inspired him to create his first piece in 2000 – ISH.

The company’s name derives from the suffix "-ish", which stands for something you cannot define, simply because it is both one thing and another.

“At a meeting with an American dancer, I talked about everything I want to do, everything I find inspiring and my aversion to sticking to just one discipline”, Gerris remembers. “You are ‘ish’, you're a bit of everything and that's your strength.”

ISH aim to do for dance and street performance what Circle du Soleil did for Circus, update, reboot and reimagine the genre with trademark multidisciplinary performances. On Dutch national television, Marco appeared as a judge in the popular television programme, “So You Think You Can Dance” for two years.

I like the Dutch, they speak great English and are a little bit mad (Think the Dutch National Football Team, Van Gogh etc) with a loveable creative streak, both of which were on display this evening.

Four large skating ramps and gantries occupy the stage, assembled in multiple ways to showcase the diverse art and performances of breakdance, inline skating, skateboarding, free running, BMX, and freestyle basketball.

But primarily this is a show about movement – lots of it. Ish were fortunate to be playing the main hall with its massive stage able to accommodate both the equipment and the action. The show was played to a pre-recorded backing track which alternated between electronica, hip hop, heavy metal, grunge and ambient, but overlaid by live performances from a cellist and violinist situated on the opposite wings of the stage adding immediacy and colour to proceedings. Gerris’ early violin lessons were obviously not wasted!

My only surprise was that the performing company was all male, I cannot believe that there are no women who deserve a showcase in this production.

The show was fabulous, enthusiastically received by a good-sized audience of all age ranges from young children, through teenagers, up to grandparents. I saw Stomp a few weeks ago, and I felt this was better. The challenge for Ish is how to brand the show that they can reach out to attract the mainstream audience they deserve. With no spoken narrative, the production reaches out to all nationalities, as well as all ages. The standing ovation at the end was richly deserved. When they next tour this country- catch them!

Gary Longden


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