Fusion: The Story of Man

After a slight delay being kept outside almost long enough to start contemplating a quick dash to Vbar, last night’s opening of the 2012 Fusion, The Story of Man was certainly worth the wait. Despite a few first-night teething problems, this year’s production did not let the company’s sterling reputation down. Transporting the audience through a thousand years of history, Mollie Liesner’s vision is clerically apparent as the dance and fashion pieces progress from the birth of man right up to today’s story concluding with a hint of tomorrows. From musical theatre numbers, to pieces of physical art and even a dance-off, this show has something for everyone’s taste.

Split into episodes of history, the show opens with a slightly slow start with ‘Origins’ which although at times feels slightly under-rehearsed, showcases some innovative choreography and highlights the well-deserved growing popularity of contemporary dance. The inclusion of such art forms as Capoeira is cleverly entwined in the ancient scriptures of evolution. A sudden contrast from this, to the luxurious bourgeoisie of ‘Renaissance’ could seem somewhat jarring, but with simple staging and well used props the transition to the Early Modern period is almost seamless. The beautiful ballet piece, ‘La Belle Époque’ sees four dancers smile and glide their way seemingly painlessly through a clean, elegant routine (a virtually impossible task when en pointe I can assure you!). Jazz, tap and jive styles litter the rest of the repertoire with only a few numbers leaving the audience uninspired.

©Fusion 2012

The show’s biggest asset is undoubtedly the fluidity in which the generous space is flooded with performers in one moment before a mass dispersion leaving individuals on stage to shine. Particular praise must be awarded to Tom Jones and Izzy Pratt’s touching ‘War’ pas de deux and the excellently executed street dancing of Saki Kunimoto who shone at every moment. The cohesive ensemble of different mediums and abilities the company has created is flouted and flaunted before us in such a diverse manner that one cannot help but be impressed.

For those more interested in the wardrobes of the performers, unfortunately I felt that the fashion side of The Story of Man was not as creative as I had originally hoped. Whilst the initial outfits were more reminiscent of costumes rather than fashion, virtually all of the collections in the second act were sourced from high street brands. Apart from the sexy exhibition entitled ‘Land Girls’, this lack of hands-on creation left many of the catwalks lacking lustre despite the models enthusiasm. As a performance piece, Fusion 2012 seems to miss a trick by not integrating the two mediums of fashion and dance with any commitment. Perhaps more movement-based catwalks evocative of Birmingham’s Clothes Show, for example, would be a more successful manifestation of two such artistic practices. Nevertheless, moody ballads mixed with foot-tapping classics pumping through the auditorium, mean the only bland moments of the production are the blackouts between each piece.

Whether, like me, you’re a virgin to the annual Fusion phenomenon or a dedicated follower of Wayne Sleep and Karl Lagerfeld, an evening in Central Hall this week certainly won’t disappoint. However, it seems Liesner’s concept is the crucial machination to the success of this production. True, each dance is expertly executed, but it is the subtly political comments that each episode makes which skilfully tracks mankind’s struggle through time. What at first may seem tacky and clichéd becomes a tongue-in-cheek comment. What could be perceived as stereotypical or monotonous is actually indicating to us the power that branding and heritage can have. It is with this in mind that I left questioning: how much should dancing and performance be sacrificed to underline a message or alternatively, how much should a message be sacrificed in order to showcase a company’s talent? Whichever you believe, with edgy choreography and even the odd moment of light comic relief, The Story of Man keeps you entertained for its entirety. A good length, a great concept and even better painted torsos; you’d be a fool to miss out.

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