The Dancing City segment of the Greenwich and Docklands festival of free outdoor performances takes place around Canary Wharf, giving the glassy, corporate environment a welcome human touch. Kicking off this year’s event, Dance Theatre of Ireland made their own movable architecture of big, brightly coloured blocks, which they built up, knocked over, ran along and sprang across. Big-name company Punchdrunk did something similar, but with bales of straw. Two women and a man played “house” with the hay, making a doorway, a giant sofa and a staircase, and tumbling about them. It was fun, and par for the course for summer entertainment; in other words, out of character and under par for Punchdrunk. Perhaps they should stay indoors.
Also fun and cartoonish were StopGAP, a company of disabled and non-disabled dancers, joined here by David Toole, a charismatic dancer with no legs, eloquent arms and a striking face. Together they gave us wacky races, chorus lines and Wonder Woman springing from a telephone box. Thankfully, there were some melancholy moments amid the madcap humour.
The French companies fared better than the British. The chic couples of Compagnie Gianni Joseph not only entertained, but were a little risqué. Best of all was the charming Compagnie Pied en Sol, an oddball couple and an eccentric guitarist. Their series of tangos was, yes, cartoonish, but played straight – and they struck a strong emotional chord.