Elya Grant, David Harvey, David Raymond, Renee Sigouin and Tiffany Tregarthen. Picture: Alistair Maitland


Out Innerspace Dance Theatre


As Birmingham International Dance Theatre approached its closing weekend of a jam-packed season, the Hippodrome played host to Canadian dance company, Out Innerspace Dance Theatre and their virtuosic piece Bygones.

Debuting in 2019 Bygones created by David Raymond and Tiffany Tregarthen (who both also perform in the piece) “celebrates how we are shaped by what we overcome and how something challenging can lead to something beautiful.” 

Before seeing the performance I watched the trailer for Bygones and mistakenly believed that the effects in the video were edited. But the effects I saw in that trailer really do happen on stage. Seeing this show live is like watching a performance full of CGI except there is no CGI.

Those logic defying, world bending moments are down to clever choreography, innovative lighting and even Kuroko - a type of puppetry where the performers are clad in black to give the illusion that objects are moving on their own. At times it's used to give the illusion that dancers were defying gravity or moving slowly through time. 

What really makes Bygones unique is just how integral the lighting design by James Proudfoot is to the storytelling. Helping to create a supernatural world where the performers, haunted by ghosts of their past, disappear in and out of light and shadows in an almost inhuman way. One particularly impressive moment came when in a duet where the dancers were running back and forth through a rotating tunnel of light. Unable to catch up to each other and eventually separated by that light. 

There are so many technical achievements in Bygones that deserve to be applauded. However thematically, this is not a piece, that to coin a phrase "sparks joy" In fact at times it felt like an endurance test.

How much of the darkness of the human spirit can you take being presented in live action for 70 minutes?

For me, the answer was not very much. My breaking point came when a dance with an umbrella became so completely unnerving I found myself hoping I wouldn't need to reach for my own umbrella when I left the theatre.

There were still some moments of relief. Where the stage trickery was stripped back and we could enjoy some exceptional dancers performing some lovely choreography. But it tended to be book ended by something equally macabre. Let’s just say I’ve never enjoyed the sound of chairs scraping against the ground and definitely won’t now.

But that brings me to another standout aspect of Bygones and that is the company of dancers themselves. At times the choreography calls for them to move and twist and contort their bodies in downright ugly ways but there is no hint of vanity, just total commitment to the material.

Technically brilliant, it is their absolute dedication to the themes explored and their own individual characters that will hold the audience's interest, even through those sections where the storytelling became somewhat muddled. It’s clear that by the end the characters are supposed to have gone through some kind of transformative experience.

They have put the demons of the past behind them. Emotionally it didn’t quite hit the mark for me but I found myself applauding the effort anyway.

Out Innersace really is unafraid to challenge their audience, commits 100 percent to a vision and pushes the boundaries of Dance Theatre.

Janine Henderson


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