Tony Adigun’s style bridges the worlds of hip hop, commercial and contemporary dance. His choreographic commissions have ranged from Alston Takes Over at The Place to Mel B’s world tour. In dance these are polar opposites but Adigun’s talent for working across genres allows him to bring the best from each style and create something a little different.
For Dance Umbrella, London’s annual international festival of 21st century choreography, Adigun has been given free rein to curate his own evening. The result is probably the hippest event of this year’s festival. Loud and informal, The Factory brings together dance, music, performance art and fashion in the cavernous space of Village Underground, Shoreditch. With its dark corners, concrete floors and high brick walls, it’s more like walking into a venue for a gig or rave than a dance performance – but then contemporary dance, like Adigun’s work, has never been one for sticking to conventions.
The evening has a haphazard structure that keeps you guessing as to where the next performance will appear from. It’s an exciting format, rather like a treasure hunt. You might turn to see a crowd gathering around the next act or spot a performance artist lurking in a dark corner. Sometimes your discovery is just something to glance at, but mostly it’s a performance to watch and enjoy. The beauty of The Factory is that you can make the evening what you want – join the crowd and watch, or head back to the bar.
Alongside his own company, Avant Garde Dance, Adigun has brought together a strong selection of artists from trapeze act Natalie James, with her daring and intricate ariel dance, to Kieran Lai, hip hop finalist from BBC Young Dancer 2015. Performers are clad in fashion designer Bettina John’s black and white costumes, sets from Tramp Haus DJ Collective bridge the gaps between acts and an installation from Leanza May, aka “The Line Girl”, sees lines of white tape stream from a hand high on the wall out across the space. These touches are perfectly suited to the East London edginess of Village Underground but the accompanying performance art, although in keeping, rather pales in comparison to the rest of the evening’s offerings.
Dance is the highlight of the night. Theo ‘Godson’ Oloyade and his accompanying breakdance crew show an incredible level of skill and muscle control as they vye for their audience’s approval. Each dancer has an individual style and a neat trick up their sleeve which keep their sets light-hearted and entertaining.
There are some strong contemporary pieces from Neon Dance and Rebecca Namgauds. Neon Dance perform an extract from a new work choreographed by Adrienne Hart. Fusing dance and technology, Empathy incorporates laser beams of light that slice through the dusty air, splitting into pyramids which envelop the two dancers in their elegant contact work. If this preview is anything to go by then the full length piece could be something to look out for. Rebecca Namgauds’ solo is performed in a pile of flour which her fluid, martial art style moves spread in swirls across the floor. The solo strikes a delicate balance between dance and artistry which makes it an interesting work to watch.
It is left to Avant Garde Dance to open and close the evening. Adigun’s new work for his company MILK +IUS blends hip hop and contemporary dance with a touch of performance art – just enough to make it unusual. Dancers in white merge in and out of the crowd, staring each other down and pulling angry, distorted faces. A joint of meat hangs Damien Hirst fashion from the ceiling but it’s unclear exactly what the intention of this is. It’s the sections on mass that stand out – Adigun’s skill for choreographing on a large group of dancers adds the punch to this piece. The closing work by the company, Black Album Iron, is the weaker of the two but with the dancers clad in animal masks its strangeness is perfectly suited to the arty space of Village Underground.
The Factory packs a lot in to one evening. It’s an ideal setting for bringing together such a mix of artistic disciplines and Adigun makes fantastic use of the space, artists performing in every corner from the stage to the floor, to stairs and archways. There’s a definite party vibe and the performers’ dedication to Adigun’s vision helps build this energetic atmosphere. The Factory is an event that’s got room to grow, an idea buzzing with the potential to go further. So far Adigun has successfully shaken things up, but perhaps if scheduled as a yearly addition to Dance Umbrella – who knows where this could go next.