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Choreographer Angus McLean Balbernie’s 343 m/s was Filiz Mehmedova’s first experience of Chapter’s annual art festival Experimentica.  

Our five senses – sight, smell, touch, hearing and taste – offer five distinct ways of perceiving the world around us. However, they work together to enable the mind to better understand our surroundings, experience the world in a new way and take us on an exciting journey. Take away one or more of those senses and the world changes. Stuart Jackson is visually impaired and has been dancing for some twenty years. Watching him do this, last Thursday (12.04.2018), my own senses of sight, touch and sound were set to work during Angus McLean Balbernie’s performance, 343 m/s,( featuring Jackson and Katy Dymoke.

The promotional blurb for the show was an interesting provocation:

“If owls have five kinds of feathers, and pain travels at 0.61 m/s, then how on earth should we perform ourselves? And what the hell is ‘coming to your senses’? Moving from 299700 km/s to 343 m/s is exhausting and not to everyone's taste.”

I entered the dark Chapter Stiwdio space, which was lit with a just a couple of spotlights; chairs were arranged to leave the space free for the dance performance. The performance started with McLean Balbernie playing some music prompting Jackson to dance and dance, until he got tired. During this solo dance performance, we were told to place our hands on him, in case he got too close. His dancing, revealed an urgent desire to perform to music. It was truly beautiful to watch someone dance who has never seen himself dancing. After the dancing, a conversation – between McLean, Jackson and Dymoke – explored dreams and nightmares, followed by more dancing from Jackson and Dymoke. The interplay of light and shadow drew me into the performance, blocking out the rest of the world.

Behind this piece is the concept of embracing the gift of darkness and responding, through movement, to different sounds in a space – the title refers to the speed of the sound. Dymoke and Jackson proved to be a great duo, with Dymoke directing some of the dancing performances, where both performers expressed themselves in their own individual styles. At the end of the choreographed programme, we were asked to play some of our favourite tunes, through our phones, to Jackson and Dymoke, then we joined them on the dancefloor to express ourselves through some frankly hilarious dance moves.

It was touching to see Jackson embracing the music and dancing so confidently in front of the audience. This is an important reminder for everyone that nothing can stop you from who you are and who you wish to become. Overall, a truly moving experience and a really important message to take on board.

343 m/s was created by Angus McLean Balbernie, Stuart Jackson and Katy Dymoke andhas been supported by Buzz Cut Festival, iDance and Touchdown Dance.

Image: Angus MacLean Balbernie: 343 m/s, Experimentica 2018, Chapter, Cardiff. Photo: Warren Orchard