It is rare for contemporary dance to aim for direct expressions of qualities such as tenderness, wonder or warmth; they seem too difficult to carry off without a shot of modern knowingness. But you sense them in the work of Newcastle-based choreographer Liv Lorent – and that makes her a natural to create a piece for children.
Angelmoth is Lorent’s fairytale story of Pippanouska, a shy librarian still haunted by her lonely childhood and the distant memory of a magical creature with broken wings. She and her friends, all isolated in their own ways, are visited by a stranger who tells tales of a faraway land. Enlivened, they begin to build mountains out of books, pretend to be giants and then venture through the library mirror into another world.
The production is sumptuous and apt. Phil Eddolls’ detailed, two-storey set is like an old doll’s house that the characters ultimately outgrow. Andy Ross’s filmic score evokes nostalgia through music-box melodies, drama with drumbeats. Lorent’s choreography, playful with props, crosses the boundaries between action and imagination with childlike ease: a seesaw becomes a giddy vacillation between safety at one end and longing at the other; when the dancers swing from ropes, they seem to be flying in their dreams.
Yet, if the first part is enchanting, in the second the choreography is sketchier, and the story, written and narrated by Ben Crompton, loses focus through too many episodes and subplots; the material feels overstretched.
Thus speaks an adult critic – but I leave the last word to my five-year-old companion, who was enthralled, brimming with comments. “Give them five stars,” he pleaded. “I’ll pay you money.”