David Toole sits in the centre of a bed, arms reaching out. Born without legs, Toole is an extraordinary performer, charismatic and precise. There’s a sumptuous flow of movement through his powerful shoulders, while his hands are delicately articulate. Walking on his hands, he seems to caress the floor.
Toole is best known in this country for his work with DV8. For The Impending Storm, a world premiere at International Dance Festival Birmingham, he’s joined by dancer-choreographer Lucy Hind and the integrated South African dance company Remix.
Directed by Mark Storor, The Impending Storm is a rambling work. It can lose focus, but there are some strong images in its jumble of scenes.
Mpotseng Shuping stands shimmying at the side of the stage. Then she pulls herself together for a journey. Piling pillows on her head, she steps out towards Toole. The other dancers lie on the floor, holding out their hands as stepping stones. Remix is a company of dancers with and without disabilities; here, they all push themselves along the floor, holding Shuping up.
At the back of the stage, three musicians sing and play, sometimes commenting on the action. When Shuping reaches Toole, they dance a tender duet, winding each other in a long scarf that she uses as a sling to lift him. Others carry each other on their backs, folding themselves over. A second couple dance a duet in which they hold each other against the walls of the set.
The Impending Storm tends to unravel. We lose sight of Shuping’s journey, while the other dancers are given less clear identities. In one exasperating sequence, everything turns violent. Shuping tugging Lucy Hind away from her partner and into a fight, while other dancers manhandle each other and the musicians wail and shriek. It feels contrived, as if the creators felt they ought to have some conflict in there somehow.
Having got that out of the way, The Impending Storm shows an unexpected lightness of touch. Having made it across the stage, everybody ends up on the white double bed, where a pillow fight breaks out. Even the musicians join in, as the music switches to a recording of “Be Mine Tonight”. The last image is a fluffy blizzard of feathers, with a happy voice crooning from the middle of it.
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