Bal Moderne: Escaping War (3 stars)

This article is from 2014

Bal Moderne: Escaping War

Photo: Associated Newspapers / REX

Interactive workshop emphasising the importance of dance during wartime

Having run for over twenty years, company Bal Moderne – based first in Paris, now in Brussels – has built a successful reputation for getting people up and dancing. Escaping War, a collaboration with the International Festival, eases us in slowly. On entering the ballroom on the upper floor of The Hub, we’re met with bunting, giant World War II posters and a compere in white tie reading wartime news.

Immediately the role created for us is that of troops being entertained, or revellers at one of WWII’s widely popular village bops. Later a short film gives us images of both World Wars, leading into the focus on the importance of dance in wartime. Seeing blind veterans being led in waltzes by nurses it’s impossible not to feel humbled by the simple power of movement and its ability to connect.

Time then for us to get to our feet. Bal Moderne’s style isn’t to recreate existing dances but to use the themes of their shows as inspiration for contemporary choreography. In this case the first piece is a gentle cabaret-influenced turn set to Kurt Weill. The team are sweet and reassuring as we’re led through the steps, and as the endorphins rise self-consciousness vanishes. Which is good, because the next choreography is fiendishly hard. José Paulo Dos Santos has created a stylish piece, but despite his tireless encouragement, he has definitely pitched it for the fit and quick-witted. Sweatiness aside though, Escaping War does make you consider the essential role dance once played in entertainment, something which has undoubtedly diminished over the years.

The Hub, run ended.

Bal Moderne

  • 3 stars

A dance film event with archival footage and live music inspired by the songs and dances of wartime Europe. The audience is invited to dress up in period clothes and join in the dancing (no experience of rhythm necessary).