Robbie Synge & Lucy boyes


Robbie Synge and Lucy Boyes

Ensemble starts with a huddle on stage. Five people lie so close together that we can’t see what their bodies and faces look like. Soon they scatter in all directions, performing twisting, kaleidoscopic choreography. Their silhouettes become clearer and we can finally identify them: three performers in their 60s and 70s share the stage with two younger, obviously professionally-trained dancers.

Robbie Synge and Lucy Boyes’ piece is the result of extensive movement research with amateur older performers. It’s supposed to give visibility and a voice to older people onstage, but eventually seems to have the opposite effect. The improvised sections, while they show the grace and individuality of these bodies, look underdeveloped and artificially interrupted. Intriguing duets dissolve into childish, stereotypical contemporary choreography. The idea that “they also can do this” ultimately denies performers a voice of their own, as the selected choreographic patterns seem to impose standards that they don’t meet, rather than opening up avenues for individual, emancipatory physical expression.

Anna Kozonina

Performers who qualify as senior citizens are practically non-existent on the professional dance stage. For that reason alone, Robbie Synge and Lucy Boyes’ Ensemble is a valuable look at what audiences might be missing out on, but the quality of the choreography fluctuates wildly from scene to scene.

Three dancers in their 60s and 70s join forces with two younger ones, and the opening section – all kaleidoscopic patterns crafted through simple steps – happily presents them as equals. Intriguing relationships emerge from some duets, too: when the white-haired Judy Adams not only pushes and shoves Synge, but carries him aloft on her feet, she is as much in charge as he is.

Too much of Ensemble is devoted to giving everyone a chance to shine, however. Older performers will never be taken seriously outside the realm of community dance if they’re given amateurish rope dances and handstands to perform. Ensemble itself repeatedly suggests they can do much more.

Laura Cappelle