Trance, ancient and modern, is the loose thread that links the three sections of En-Trance by Birmingham-based company ACE. The first episode, choreographed by artistic director Gail Parmel, opens with some fairly hokey Afro-evocation: a village scene in which two women crouch and squat, torsos rolling in characteristic African style, while four other women use a standard modern-dance idiom of spins and leaps as the drums, played live by Ian Parmel, drive the whole group into an energetic delirium. Then there’s an unexpected shift of pace and ambience as a dancer coils and snakes with a seductive smile, and the drumming gives way to eerie electronic slides and swoops. This recorded music (by Andy Garbi) lifts the rest of the section out of the ordinary. It is a densely textured, almost filmic score that suggests voodoo chants one moment and a contemporary string quartet the next.
The second episode loses some of the initial momentum, in part because Garbi’s music now shifts rather too much, lurching from oriental gongs to thunderous drums, Balkan chants and sitar droning. But it’s also because the choreography, by Bawren Tavaziva, loses its own plot. It begins clearly enough, with a tug-of-war tussle between two women representing competing spirits, but its focus dissipates in the overly busy choreography. Intent on keeping the action going, Tavaziva ends up obscuring it.
the dancers throw shapes with their arms, hitting each beat with automaton bounces, aerobic jogs and catwalk poses
The final section, again choreographed by Parmel, is set in a modern club against a lurid video backdrop of swirling city lights. In hip, urban gear, the dancers throw shapes with their arms, hitting each beat with automaton bounces, aerobic jogs and catwalk poses. Singer Denise Gordon floats soulful vocals above the trippy pulse, and the women fling an aggressive hip-hop attitude into their you-lookin’-at-me? gestures. There are fleeting echoes of previous scenes, but this one is really about sending us home on a high. In this it succeeds but, as with earlier sections, the effervescent energy is more stimulating than entrancing.