Dance Review: Artimus

Inspired by the Greek myth surrounding the goddess Artemis’s birth, Artimus is a high-energy, modern production signalling the direction of the relatively new dance company, Burning Man Productions.

Building on the ancient story of Zeus’s affair with Leto and the subsequent rage of his wife Hera, Artimus has a modern flavour, with vintage-inspired costumes and a classic Broadway-style first act. The story is changed slightly, the supernatural aspects of the characters barely acknowledged, and the events playing out to new, disturbing outcomes.

Opening with an exciting, twenties-styled ensemble piece, the entire first act is fast-moving with a hint cabaret. Georgia Elson takes charge as the powerful, conniving and beautiful Hera, while Lauren Mann’s Leto seems to come alive through her sexy, burlesque movements. James Luck is a talented dancer, but doesn’t manage to give much personality to his role, with few moments of believable connection between him and either woman or the audience. This is perhaps due to the many distractions on stage – the items are busy, with large casts and many costume and scenery changes.

The overall effect is dynamic, but sometimes a little confusing. More contrasts between the pieces and some changes in tempo would help; everything is at the same fast pace, and the result is slightly frantic and a bit too much of the same thing. Each dance could function as a stand-alone performance, which makes the transitions unclear and even the contemporary pieces don’t succeed in slowing down or softening what feels like a rushed first half. Nevertheless, it ends on a high note, with Hera confronting Leto and re-asserting her dominance in a stark, dramatic scene.

The second half focuses on the birth of Artemis and the consequences of Hera discovering her existence. This piece deviates from the myth and is a complete contrast to the first half. The story seems to flow better and the dancers demonstrate solid contemporary technique, with some beautiful moments from Anna Brunskill. The ensemble dancers shine in their animal roles and Rebekkah Schoonbeek-Berridge is a young, soft Artemis. Despite her obvious affinity for animals, she lacks the savagery often associated with the goddess, although she dances with strength and energy. Her contemporary pieces with Rodney Tyrell near the end of the second half are very arresting and the performance ends on a triumphant, slightly disturbing note.

The lighting is a bit hit and miss with too many bright, white flashes, which are both distracting and momentarily blind the audience. The pas de deux between Leto and Zeus with both holding torches is an intriguing idea but unfortunately doesn’t quite work – the overall effect is a bit gimmicky and the dark stage means the audience can’t really see what’s happening, which is a pity as I suspect that there was some lovely dancing in the piece.

Overall, a well-danced and enthusiastically performed production, there is a bit of a disconnect between the Latin and contemporary styles and the transition between items isn’t always seamless. The mixed genres also highlight small gaps in technique for some dancers, although the standard of dancing is generally high. While the dominance on Latin in the first half and contemporary in the second does illustrate the different locations and lifestyles, there seems to be little connection between the two.

Like many new shows, the choreography could use a few tweaks, however the performance finishes on high note and the passion and energy of the dancers is clearly visible. The audience is very supportive and Artimus is fun and engaging, testament to the hard work of the performers. There’s a lot of potential in the talent on stage and I’m looking forward to see what the company does next.

This review first appeared in Theatreview

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