Random ringmasters, rebellious shadows and bowler hats - this is Clouds, by Spanish contemporary dance company Aracaladanza. Inspired by the work of surrealist artist Rene Magritte, Clouds has a dream-like quality. It's been promoted as a family show, and rightfully so, but you don't need to be accompanied by children to be charmed by this magical little number.
Like any decent dream, Clouds is a series of short scenes that segue into one another seamlessly, yet illogically. Director Enrique Cabrera packs 50 minutes tightly with delight and it's all joyfully performed by six dancers. Incorporating plenty of strings, drums, bell-like sounds, wordless female vocals and whispers, Mariano Lozano P. Ramos' musical score can best be described as ambient, that ambience being a sense of fantasy.
There are so many sections worthy of mention, but a favourite involves giant bubble skirts, filled with balloons. Against an early evening blue backdrop, the white balloons are lit with a delicate pink. Weightless and airy, the skirts create their own choreography, instigated by the movement of the three female dancers.
Humour abounds in this light- hearted work. There's a touch of Charlie Chaplin to a scene that sees the cast members appear as super-long-bodied, suit-clad characters, with polystyrene heads atop coiled spring necks. Heads wobbling, they're like some kind of giant yet short-limbed mafia. It's funny and it just gets funnier but I won't spoil the surprise here.
Another beautiful scene sees the cast perform on a series of different size stepladders, which they wheel over, swing under, fold and use to vault into the air, and sit under, teepee-style. Yet another sees the dancers flipper-clad, slapping comically across the stage to baroque-sounding music. It's awkward, yet there's a strange grace as elongated legs circle through the air.
The dancers are incredibly charismatic and their evident enjoyment of the work is infectious. With their numerous characters, it seems that one is watching a company at least double the size. While there were some moments that seemed to be slightly out of sync on the night viewed, the timing of the various tricks and physical jokes was impeccable.
Mention must be made of Pedro Yague's lighting design, which creates a fantasy world of colour. In particular, one of the early scenes sees a kaleidoscope of pastels appear on a giant plastic bag, transforming it from the mundane to the sublime.
Watching Clouds is like seeing the world through the multicoloured sheen on a bubble. Highly recommended for those who want a little magic in their weekend.