'Clouds' – Aracaladanza
In 'Clouds', Spanish company Aracaladanza presents an hour of dance for a family audience, loosely inspired by the work of the Belgian surrealist Rene Magritte. Their choreography almost immediately, and perfectly, captures a child’s sense of the world. Like children, the show and its performers have short attention spans: every few minutes new and often surprising images appear without warning.
In perhaps the stand-out sequence of the entire show, several doors are wheeled on stage, from which dancers leap and chase one another for several minutes. And then, out from a door, steps a white-faced, featureless giant, his head bobbing on a spring. Dressed in an immaculate tuxedo, the giant is soon joined by other similar creatures, and the following dance sequence is classy, weird and subtly funny. And then, moments later, the scene changes again: as much as we may love the giants, there’s still more to see and precious little time for everything.
Helping this quick-change style is the company’s incorporation of puppets and objects into their work. The objects are far more than just props: they are, in many respects, co-stars of the show, and the ways in which the performers interact with them is a source of constant delight. Again, one is reminded of the excitement any child will have when coming across something new and inexplicable.
In one scene, a performer is walking across stage when she discovers a pair of snorkelling flippers, left lying around. Initially curious, she tries them on. One’s first impression might be that nothing could impede the movement of a dancer more than to have duck’s feet suddenly welded to their ankles, but once again the show surprises us. Rather than stick to the typical fare of leaps, spins and athletic showmanship, the performers move in the flippers in much the same way that a child would move; indeed, in much the same way that I moved the first time I wore flippers, somewhere on a beach many years ago: joyful, with laughter, looking like a ridiculous animal and very happy for it.
It would be impossible to make a complete list of the bestiary of images that are paraded across the stage. I haven’t mentioned the shadow puppetry, or the lambs, or the omnipresent bowler hats (the most obvious nod to Magritte). Suffice to say I enjoyed the show immensely, as, I think, did the children about me. There were many gasps of wonder, as well as serious discussions on how something was done (“I think there’s a person in there” hazarded one small boy after several minutes’ observation of the giants). This show, which incorporates so many aspects of live performance, makes for as fine an introduction for children to the woolly world of theatre as you could hope for.