Manchester-based Company Chameleon open a UK tour of their new show The Shadow with a world premiere at HOME Manchester.

The dance theatre company have developed a strong reputation for creating socially relevant dance theatre, exploring human issues.  They take on topics including mental health, masculinity and relationships.  This production finds Company Chameleon exploring the hidden parts of the unconscious mind and the darker side of personalities.

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Based on the premise that there is no tomorrow, and the behaviour that manifests with this knowledge, the narrative of The Shadow follows six characters and their shadow counterparts as they are swept into different stories and places.

“The shadow is present in everyone” explains choreographer and co-Artistic Director of Company Chameleon Anthony Missen, “but we only see it when light shines in a particular way. Psychoanalyst Carl Jung identifies the shadow as the unknown or unconscious dark side of our personality. Most of the time we don’t see it at all, or acknowledge it, but it’s always there if you look closely enough.

“Everyone has masks they present publicly which may or may not reflect what’s going on privately. We all prefer to put our best face forward. It is said that we all have three faces: our public face, the face that we show to our friends and family, and the face that nobody sees. It’s the latter that is supposedly our truest likeness, and this is what the piece explores.”

As part of the character development for the production, he researched and delivered a series of workshops, which asked performers to look at their own shadow through word association tests, tasks, and improvisations.  Speaking about the development process of The Shadow, he elaborates, “I didn’t want to dream up characters for this work. Audiences recognise honesty, so honesty has to be found. I find the most thoroughly engaging and meaningful performances are when audiences are right there with the performers involved, with empathy and feeling what they are. I often like to see it as an experience rather than a performance. There has to be an authenticity to the performances, and this means the dancers revealing true parts of themselves in the parts they play. Early on in the process, I researched psychoanalytical methodology and practices, which informed the workshops exploring our own personalities and shadows. The approach gave the dancers their own stories to draw from, so they can reveal true parts of themselves in their performance. The intention is that the audience see the human in there and have a real response to who they are.

“I shaped and directed what the dancers produced to avoid making assumptions, which might take away from the honesty of the performance. It’s a vulnerable and sensitive world we are diving into given the subject matter, so their wellbeing has been something I’ve been very conscious of throughout.

The dancers responded creatively to words, states, tasks, very involved and lengthy improvisations, archetypes, scenarios and situations. I then evolved selected movement material to make it speak before embarking on the journey of making parts speak to each other to create coherence. We created a huge palette resulting in a mammoth task of figuring out how it could fit together whilst retaining the roots of what the dancers had created.”

The Shadow features performances by Company Chameleon dancers Juliana Javier, Theo Fapohunda, Lee Clayden, Associate Artist David Colley and Northern School of Contemporary Dance apprentices Lisa Ziemann and Reece Marshall.  Emerging dance talents and alumni of Edge Hill University of Bath Spa University will perform as the shadows.

When does Company Chameleon’s The Shadow run at HOME Manchester?

Company Chameleon present The Shadow at HOME Manchester on 22 and 23 November 2019.  Tickets priced £14 (concessions £12).

Manchester Dance – Company Cheleon’s The Shadow at HOME Manchester – image courtesy Joel Chester Fildes