Company Chameleon’s performance at the Royal Opera House demonstrated that the founding dancers’ concerns, at least in this programme, are about human interaction on a social and mythological level. Company Chameleon is a modern ballet company based in Salford, founded and directed by two dancers who began their performative careers studying at the Trafford Youth Dance Theatre – Anthony Missen and Kevin Edward Turner. Both received formal dance training at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance, and Kevin Turner followed an international dance career until 2007 when the two joined forces to create their own company. The November 16th performance showed their aim of practising dance theatre as “a vital method for social change”.

Company Chameleon © Brian Slater
Company Chameleon
© Brian Slater

Eden was the opening work in this performance. Choreographed by the team of Gemma Nixon and Jonathan Goddard, the work begins with two men on a darkened stage who mirror each other’s moves, as if they were self and shadow. The floor is the grounding platform, where the dancers roll and collapse. Their pas de deux is followed by a duet between two women, which begins with one dancer standing, the other on the floor. Like the men they push and pull each other into motion, although their concerted repetitions are less obvious.

A line appears, drawn on the stage in light and seeming to form a half of a hexagram, as if it were defining a room. One of the women moves on the audience side of the line, pushed and pulled by the other dancers who appear out of the shadows and move her in and out of their space. Finally, a man crosses the line and moves into her space – the space of the “other”. They dance even while the two other dancers appear and seem to coax them back to the upstage side of the line – the side of darkness. The two make small, close gestures, their interactions based on embrace and the rejection of embrace. The original music, written and produced by John Matthias and Andrew Prior, is vaguely minimalist and serial. At times the music becomes evocatively lyrical with additional pieces – Mercedes the Dancer and Suite for Piano and Electronics – by John Richards.

The edge of the room drawn by light becomes a simple line on either side of which the two women stand and dance, mirroring each other’s moves. The line disappears and the four move in shifting unison, like a Bach canon, apparently repeating the steps performed at the beginning of the piece. The piece, aptly named Eden, asks the questions: Who is this “other”? How much are they or do they become an extension of ourselves? It’s all very reminiscent of the ballet The Unanswered Question – part of Balanchine’s Ivesiana, which premiered with Allegra Kent in 1954 – that shows a woman manipulated by shadowy men, who keep her always just outside the reach of the man who desires her, confining her to the outer reaches of the stage. There are also references to La Sonnambula, also by Balanchine.

Those are conceptual comparisons more than dance comparisons, however, because this work danced by Company Chameleon is far earthier than Balanchine’s two works. In Eden the man plays a different role: he is not the pursuer of a distant ideal woman, rather he is a someone looking at the mystery of materiality. In this pas de quatre, the women begin as almost limp creatures – they are swung, flung and seemingly without volition. The two men touch one woman as if confirming her substantiality: she is real, she is.

In the second part of the evening’s double bill, Company Chameleon founders Anthony Missen and Kevin Edward Turner present their latest creation, Pictures We Make. The same four performers – Missen, Turner, Nixon and Elena Thomas – perform to an original score by Spanish musician and composer Miguel Marin. The work starts with a man and a woman seated on stage, the woman in light, the man behind her in darkness. The choreography has a more athletic, even gymnastic quality, a dash of b-boy vocabulary, the gestures and moves slightly more extreme. But the theme is similar. As the programme notes explain: “the piece questions our relationships with ourselves and with other people. As we plunge from I to we, how do we navigate the space between our experience and expectations?” There is humour in this parade of interactions. At one moment, three of the dancers are seated on a line of chairs, the fourth pushes them over so he can commandeer a chair, causing the other male dancer to fall on the floor. Make way!

Make way especially for these talented young choreographers.

***11