Queen Elizabeth Hall, London; July 29, 2014
Aracaladanza has always brought a combination of the lyrical, surreal and magical to its performances. So, in many ways, the world of Belgian artist René Magritte was a natural source of inspiration. In “Clouds” (or “Nubes” in Spanish), artistic director and choreographer Enrique Cabrera follows the painter in creating a scenes within a magical universe in which objects, or representations of them, are always very much at the centre.
The Madrid-based company rightly has a reputation for producing family-friendly works, but they are not just for children. “Clouds” will captivate youngsters, but there is much here for adults too. And at 50 minutes, it’s just the right length.
Cabrera uses scenic elements and objects in strange and wonderful ways. The work opens with a pile of miniature box-shaped houses centre-stage, lit up like a fairyland village. One by one, they are carried off by dancers in oversized jackets until just one is left, from which a small fluffy white cloud emerges, and the surreal journey begins.
The first twenty minutes or so are relatively slow. The simple little cloud that emerged from the last house becomes a big cloud that dances. More clouds follow, of every shape and size. At one point they even become sheep.
As imaginative as all that is, things pick up enormously once other ideas are introduced. As the dance becomes ever more bizarre, strange characters appear. One magnificently imaginative image follows another. Duets and ensemble sections are filled with comedy that not works both visually for children and more sophisticatedly for adults.
After a section involving doors that lead nowhere, there are eight-foot tall giant dinner-jacketed figures with white cloth heads and ballerinas on stepladders. There’s some great ensemble dance for the former, including an all too brief pastiche of “Top Hat” after they whip out some red canes. Best of all, is the dance in diving flippers – including some smart turns in arabesque – not easy! Magritte would doff one of his famous bowler hats to the madness of it all; and yes, there are plenty of them in it too – and green apples.
And all the time, the stage is awash with energy filled exuberance. When dancers are enjoying themselves, the sense of fun usually sweeps through the rest of the theatre too. It certainly did here.
Everything is helped on its way by the mix of Penguin Café Orchestra and original music by Mariano Lozano P. Ramos, which does all that’s asked of it. Pedro Yagüe’s lighting, Álvaro Luna’s clever animated projections, and Elisa Sanz and Ricardo Vergne’s set all add to the atmosphere.
“Clouds” is great entertainment that works on pretty much every level. So entranced were the youngsters in the audience, there was barely a peep to be heard save occasional laughter. Go. Be a child for a while; allow you imagination to take flight.
I defy anyone to see “Clouds” and not be charmed. And I defy anyone to walk out without a smile on their face.