Yesterday evening at Leicester’s Attenborough Arts Centre, dance improvisation collective Quick Shifts performed for the first time this academic year and I was thrilled to see other Serendipity volunteers supporting the event!
The Attenborough Arts Centre is one of our trusted venues for Let’s Dance International Frontiers and has played host to many of our performances across the years. The main studio holds an audience of 110, and this relatively small capacity creates a charmingly intimate setting for both the viewer and performer.
Quick Shifts is a Leicester-based company that uses creative scores and games to generate organic movement content and always generates giggles, snickers and genuine “LOL”s from their audiences. Alongside this, they encourage audience involvement during their performances, an attribute that makes their work so popular within the Midlands.
The collective is made up of dance professors from De Montfort University who maintain a playful quality throughout their performance with shifty eyes and a distracted nature reminiscent of something mischievous. There is something very exciting and stimulating about seeing your own teachers doing what they do best: dance, explore, mess up and simultaneously innovate.
The piece started with all dancers sat on stools whilst sharing inquisitive looks with each other and the audience. Solos, duets and subsequent trios emerge and when Jill first utters the words “Leave it, Jo” we all knew that the game had changed.
Through the commands “keep it” and “leave it”, the dancers had verbal control over each other’s movements, which is where the comical tendencies of the performers begin to reveal themselves. The dancers mutter to themselves, from random word-tossing to genuine conversations with each other and members of the audience. There is constantly something happening as the work unfolds: a quirky physical contact, a fleeting look that incites a weight exchange, a moment that causes the audience to burst into laugh which I missed whilst making my notes!
The post-show discussion gave an insight to the work from the inside as the dancers reflect on their processes and experiences. They considered when in improvisation is something right or wrong, and how long an idea can be sustained for. Audience members responded with insightful questions and comments and the comedic nature of the work arose in the discussion. The dancers admit that they do not attempt to be purposefully amusing but instead focus on sustaining the moment in which they are in with the audience together.
Watching Quick Shifts is always a special experience, especially amongst so many dance enthusiasts and supporters alongside us volunteers. I can certify that here in Leicester there is a truly tight-knit dance community that shows real interest in the progression and development of contemporary dance.