Review: Above and Beyond

After the success of last year’s event ‘Downside Up’, Bare Toed Dance Company returned to Northern Stage on 26th October for another installation of interactive aerial performance and workshop, ‘Above and Beyond’. Bare Toed have always had an innovative focus on children’s natural instinct to move, play and dance, which was fully catered for this venue; from soaring on harnesses, to hanging from a trapeze, to experimenting with handstands and balances, there were endless possibilities for everyone to feel like they were flying.

As the space opened to the public, children and parents were guided into a softly lit stage to watch performers Rachel Kurtz and Jane Park suspended from harnesses in the centre, travelling up and down and spinning each other around with a playful and encouraging air. This was a mere taste of what was to come, as beautiful as it was, as the space was then opened for audience members to have a go on the aerial equipment themselves. The venue buzzed with the eager, curious energy of children itching to soar through the sky. Members of Bare Toed shared their skills with enthusiasm and patience, catering to every child’s individual needs which included many with autism and learning difficulties. Inclusivity has long been an important part of Bare Toed’s work, hence the many other activities to take part in for those who personally didn’t feel like flying, including handstands and cartwheels, posing in front of a green screen, merging live footage of the event together with fun film effects, or just curling up on a sofa and doodling the events of the day.

Once the audience had become acquainted with the equipment, Wilf Campbell and Ross Taylor then took to the stage for a stunning display of circus skills; handstands and backflips in front of a sunset projection that had the crowd cheering and gasping. Children were soon clamouring for the two to teach them their talents to which they happily obliged, providing guidance and reassurance with their demonstrations. After another session of moving and flying, Lynn Campbell and Rachel Kurtz took to the air in harnesses to twirl, flip and dance gracefully against a projection of ocean waves and cloudy skies; even watching was exhilarating as the combination of 2D film footage and live aerial performance created a dizzying, soaring sensation.

While beaming, proud parents took photos of their own children grinning upside-down and up in the air, film maker John Quinn created his own footage on the spot of their newly found skills. As the show culminated in a final stunning silks performance by Jane Park, the silks were then opened to reveal this footage in a touching film montage of the day itself. Audience members took great joy in pointing themselves, their children and their friends out on the projection as their hard work and talented movements were celebrated.

Alternating seamlessly between performance and workshop was a marvellous idea as it kept the audience on their toes and constantly provided ideas for new ways to fly. The addition of Jo Templey and Keith Mills’ original, gorgeous, rhythmic live musical accompaniment throughout the day provided the finishing touch to create the upbeat, engaging, inspiring environment that allowed every child present to soar above and beyond their everyday lives.