Mayfest: Of Riders and Running Horses is one of the most radiant shows you will ever see

18th May 2015



Advertised as taking place in a ‘secret city centre location’, Still House’s Of Riders and Running Horses eventually gathered at the nighttime surrounds of the NCP car park. Taking on choreographer Michael Klien’s assertion that “Dancing under the open sky makes a felt difference”, Dan Canham’s show attempts to animate the urban space around it, and to conjure “a new kind of old dance, an insistent rhythm, a joyful step into what it means to move together”.

What Canham has produced is a show of fierce ingenuity and courage, the quintet of female dancers vitalising the blue and yellow tarmac – puddles included – as they energise the space around them. Supposedly this is an “ad-hoc ceremony”, their interplay that of people just getting to know each other. Superb musical accompaniment comes from Luke Harney (AKA Typesun) and Sam Halmarack, and is a surging mix of throbbing springiness and longing melancholy. 

The performance is reliant, of course, on its location, the rooftop of the car park providing some kind of Rancièrean ‘in-between’ space for the irruption of this ceremony. It is both a hidden, secretive location and one that is also entirely public, as the bank of apartment windows above the ‘stage’ and the police sirens in the background attest. The elements are braved by the hardy crowd on one of the wilder days of the year – sunshine is mixed in with high winds, rain and hail – and while some may long for a hazy May evening, the tempestuous weather conditions only add to the drama of the event.

While all five dancers are outstanding, combining joyful gambols with touches of folk dance, Anna Kaszuba is worth a special mention for working with great intelligence, playfulness and curiosity, as well as taking her solo during the heaviest hailstorm – something with earns her a warm reception. Her performance is entirely indicative of the show in general, and it is difficult to imagine seeing a more memorable, vibrant and evocative piece of theatre. When the performers take a victory lap at the end, it is mere seconds before the stage is swamped by almost all of the crowd in a radiant mass dance.

Conal Dougan