Marc Brew Company’s Fusional Fragments lit up the Queen Elizabeth Hall in a double bill that marked the first night of performances in the Southbank Centre’s Unlimited festival, a project showcasing work by deaf and disabled artists alongside the London Paralympic Games. Fusional Fragments, featuring live percussion by Dame Evelyn Glennie, was a highly intricate work that lived up to its title. Drawing on many styles and composed of many elements, these fused fragments collided in a work that was at times highly sensorial and compelling, while at others overwrought and distracted.

Fusional Fragments by Marc Brew with Dame Evelyn Glennie © Irven Lewis
Fusional Fragments by Marc Brew with Dame Evelyn Glennie
© Irven Lewis

The aim of the work, according to the programme notes, was to experiment with fusing the movement vocabulary of ballet, contemporary dance and Marc Brew’s own style. To do this, Brew collaborated not only with the dancers, but also with Evelyn Glennie and composer Philip Sheppard, and lighting designer Andy Hamer. Brew questioned whether the different styles in the work could be successfully fused, or if they should always exist as separate entities.

For me, Fusional Fragments was at its best when the many components joined together without competing for attention. The work was captivating when Glennie and dancers shared a strong and unified focus. For example, the piece begins with one dancer interacting with sharp lines of light. This becomes an articulate duet between the dancer and Glennie’s rhythms, and I was struck by the ability of dancer, musician and lighting designer to merge into a singular artistic voice.

Similarly, the movement worked best when it wasn’t trying too hard to distinguish between ballet and Brew’s contemporary style. The piece featured many duets that flowed seamlessly from one movement to the next, without the ridged form of ballet, and these were a welcome synthesis between the beautiful line of ballet and the successional isolation and athleticism of contemporary movement. The choreography in general took much from the leggy and shape-dictated ballet form, and the dancers performed the technical work with strength and determination. However, in order to perform the range of complex partnering and balletic precision, the dancers sometimes felt a bit disengaged, and they appeared more at home in contemporary sequences and shapes.

I was pulled out of the piece when components of the work seemed to be overriding each other instead of combining together. There were moments when all the dancers were spread across the stage doing different material simultaneously, with a striking and specific lighting state, while Glennie also offered a strong physical and rhythmic presence. This gave the piece a high energy, but a somewhat scattered feeling. The last two minutes of the work suffered from this effect, and while each component was artistically interesting and stimulating, the combination was distracting and generally dispersed the potential impact of the section.

Interlaced between these fragmented sections, there were moments of undeniable beauty, when each component fused to become part of the whole. In this way, I think Brew answers the question he poses about whether these elements can be combined. Yes they can, and when it is done right it is very striking. But it is clear that an amazing amount of craft and collaboration is needed for it to be successful. Despite this, as Fusional Fragments demonstrations, this fusion is a worthy and exciting experimentation.