Debbie Lee-Anthony and Dancers

D@win (Dance at Winchester, pronounced ‘Darwin’), the university’s signature dance company, performed their sixth collection of work this month, an extremely diverse collection of choreographies and a confident debut for the second year dancers involved.

The collection opened with extracts from technique classes, giving the dancers a chance to show off their physical capabilities, followed by a refreshing and humorous dance by Jenni Beth Koetsier, ‘Beef Stew and Dumplings’. Never before have I seen cooking on-stage – very Meredith Monk. Koetsier cleverly recycled motifs across dancers, producing subtly different characters. I was reminded of Fokine’s ‘Petrushka’, in which three puppets perform identical movements in totally different styles. Abbi Saunders’ cheeky grin was especially adorable – she is a wonderful comedienne.

‘Lupe’, the next piece by Amy Brennan and Kate Wycherley, showed off the dancers’ excellent control with its slow ‘pliés’ and slides on the back. It was reminiscent of the Doris Humphrey classic ‘Water Study’; the squeaks of the bodies in contact with the floor, the random dispersion of seated contractions; like bubbles popping. Samantha O’Reilly’s ‘Diversify’ was at entirely the opposite end of the spectrum (no pun intended), with hip-hop-style rippling isolations and rewinding, unpicking, and fast-forwarding of movements. Interestingly a motif in profile, hands on hips, gave the impression of Greek goddesses, stationery and yet united in motion on a piece of pottery. A contemporary take indeed.

‘Noche Vestido’ by Renée Brown and Kelly Brightman was the highlight of the night for me, perhaps due to its heavy influence from Pina Bauch’s ‘Kontakthof’, a classic in which dancers parade themselves as objects to the audience and each other, caressing and abusing their bodies all at once. The dancers pulled on dull-coloured jackets, buttoned up and menacingly, almost intimidatingly, peered out over the collars. But whilst their eyes told one story, their gesture, their need to hide from the world, told another.

Lucy Newton’s ‘Ut Vita’ was choreographed to the memorable ‘In the Nature of Daylight’ by Max Richter, an extremely tragic sweeping score from the film ‘Shutter Island’. The choreography was delicate at first, before pushing the dancers to both physical and emotional extremes. Its oppressive pushes and heavy crashing falls captured its concept of helplessly watching the pain of another perfectly.

The performance closed with ‘Accelerate’, Jane Anstead and Rebecca Rainbacks’ energetic ballet-meets-contemporary piece, dancers sweeping across the stage in all directions and flying from turns to leaps to balances. The finale was ‘Child’s Play’, a cute, colourful collaboration between Debbie Lee-Anthony and the dancers. There were running aeroplanes, wheelbarrow races and piggybacks, but this never became disorganised, nor was it mawkishly sentimental. Lucy Newton’s delicately crafted facial expressions and utter technical control were astonishing to watch – I have no doubt she will go far.

The 50-minute performance flew by; a rare comment to make, I find, as dances can so often last longer than necessary. D@win made a promising statement and proved its dancers great ambassadors for our university.