With a flurry of harpsichord arpeggios, the stage lights up on a pair of eighteenth-century lovers sitting straight-backed on a baroque courting chair. This is the opening movement of Seated, the first of three dances that make up the programme for MurleyDance’s spring tour, The Object of My Affection, which came to ACT Aberdeen on Sunday. Each dance has a different choreographer but an overall theme – the attachments we form with people, places and possessions – links the performances together.

The Object of My Affection © MurleyDance
The Object of My Affection
© MurleyDance

Company founder and resident choreographer David Murley describes Seated, the first dance, as a five-movement study of “status and sentiment”. The audience is taken on a journey in time and we see how the role of chairs has evolved through the ages: from an elegant eighteenth-century courtship to the powerful authority held by the Victorian British throne, then a 1950s diner, where the swivelling barstools bring people together. Next we find ourselves in early 1990s America where the living room TV has taken over family life and finally amongst the IKEA flat-pack furniture of the present day.

Occasionally the pointe work in the opening movements was fairly wobbly, although I did enjoy Monica Tapiador’s en pointe arabesque on top of the baroque loveseat. Fortunately, however, the insecurity in technique was overshadowed by the character-driven later scenes. Georgiana Connolly was brilliant as the languid mother from the hilarious 1990s movement. In her garish smock and soda-can hair curlers, she resembled a living Andy Warhol print. Her increasing frustration as she attempted to control her unruly children while still catching the end of her programme prompted whoops and applause from the enthusiastic audience. The IKEA scene was another crowd favourite, particularly the ending where the dancer (Joshua Royal) pulls humorously unimpressed faces as he compares his higgledy-piggledy contraption of ill-fitting parts with the advertised product.

Eloise Hymas and Dylan Waddell © MurleyDance
Eloise Hymas and Dylan Waddell
© MurleyDance

There was just enough time in the brief interval that followed to read Charles Baudelaire’s poem À une passante (A Woman Passing By) in the programme, which was the source of inspiration for the next dance. It depicts two strangers making eye contact and realising that they will never meet. Their potential relationship is danced by a dream couple behind the strangers and the contrast between the fluid entwining of the dream couple’s bodies and the strangers’ statuesque stillness was striking. The non-dancing couple provided a foreground for the dancers, enclosing them, creating a feeling of intimacy. There was an uncomfortable sense that the audience was intruding on a private moment. That said, it was a beautifully heartfelt performance with lovely lifts and lots of chemistry between the members of both couples.

Alexandra Cameron-Martin and Naomi Shimon © MurleyDance
Alexandra Cameron-Martin and Naomi Shimon
© MurleyDance

The final performance, nineteen-year-old choreographer Richard Chappell’s Into Decay, was a gorgeously disturbing piece. Questioning our reliance on gadgets and technology over more satisfying human experiences, this was definitely the highlight of the evening. Although physically demanding, the dance was polished and seamlessly executed – could these really be the same dancers who an hour earlier were shaking in their pointe shoes? The merge of classical piano music with electronic static is made even creepier by the shadowy lighting and screen projections of monochrome photographs: an abandoned stuffed rabbit, broken extension cables and dead flowers. Most effective were moments when individual dancers were abandoned to “decay” onstage, completely ignored by the dancers around them. As the final dancer slowly lowered another to the ground, there was a long silence before the audience started clapping. The dance was a brilliant portrayal of how fleeting life really is, and I for one will certainly think twice before retreating to my computer to hit refresh on my Facebook every twenty minutes.

MurleyDance’s strengths lie in attentive characterisation and flexibility, both in body and technique. As the curtain closed for the last time, the woman in front of me exclaimed that the performance was “wonderful” and, although I might not take it so far as that, I agree that it was an enjoyable and thought-provoking evening.