On Wednesday 11th March 2015, Nottingham Contemporary hosted an exciting live showing of Inside Opulence as part of Dance4’s biennial Nottdance Festival. This festival strives to question the meaning of dance, whilst also bringing together “new artistic perspectives” from across the world. Perspectives like that of Jack Webb, one of Scotland’s leading choreographers and dancers, who helped the festival hit both these targets this year with Inside Opulence.
Webb aims to evoke contemplative thoughts on the dangers of abundance, and the corruptive effects of riches and power too. In his work, becoming consumed by things like this even causes you to become ultimately blind to other, perhaps more important things. Inside Opulence is therefore a piece which extends these messages to its audience through beautiful, yet disturbing choreography; and its deranged narrative sees the characters descend into madness before your very eyes.
The Space at the Nottingham Contemporary offered the perfect environment for this. Its vast cube-shaped performance area with thick, concrete walls, created a sheer sense of agoraphobic vulnerability. Trapped and isolated from the outside world, you feel much like Webb’s characters, as they slowly spiral into the imprisonment of their own minds. The space reinforces the dissociation and detachment associated with their obsessions and power, as well as that loss of peripheral thinking generally caused by monomania. As a result, the audience is immediately prompted to feel empathetic towards the characters’ plight upon leaving the bright lights and warm hum of conversation which filled the bar outside.
The Space’s darkness engulfs you, and you are left in anticipation of what is to come as your eyes slowly adjust. Experiencing only a distant grumbling vibration (which travels through the floorboards from a set of large speakers at the back of the room), tension gradually sparked within each audience member. Two figures then appeared on stage as the lights flickered on, and the vibrations grew heavier. Hypnotically, they begin to move in unison, perhaps performing in front of a sparkling curtain which conceals a platform behind it. Their sequined costumes glistened, creating an atmosphere which was as magical and surreal as it was dream-like.
As they slowly, elegantly transitioned around this space, a third figure then also rises from the platform and begins to command the two dancers through a microphone. “Dance for me,” this newcomer impels in a passionate, yet supportively encouraging manner. However, these imperatives are barked in such a preacher-like manner that they send chills down your spine. Something beautiful and controlled therefore becomes rather more sinister and chaotic. And passion soon turns to desperation, as things start to take a turn for the worse.
The music starts to skip and repeat, acting like a cue for the sudden loss of control in the psyche of the characters. In a way, this repetition parallels the kinds of cyclical mental behaviour that obsessions and avarice create in the human mind too. So the dancers’ switch from a state of relaxed fluidity to a state of high tension, involving seemingly involuntary movements. They also break the fourth wall, making us seem personally targeted and arguably responsible for their demise.
With tickets starting from just £10 for a double-bill, Inside Opulence was an absolute must-see for people new to dance performances. It left you questioning not only the nature of dance, but also wider issues in life, like the nature of trust and how well you know others or even yourself. You can find out more about upcoming events like this by subscribing to Dance4’s newsletter here.