Room 2 Manoeuvre is an Edinburgh based dance company, resident at The Brunton, and founded by Artistic Director, Tony Mills, ten years ago. Without a Hitch, their newest show, nearing the end of a UK tour, is a co-production with Jo Jo Dance Centre in Finland, and means we have the pleasure of an international cast of performers from Finland, Sweden, Latvia and Manchester.
Mills’ concept isn’t wholly unusual for a dance show. The Rhythm Rascals are a four man b-boy crew, teetering on the brink of success. But Antti-Freeze (Antii Kyllonön) is far too zen to rehearse as much as the others would like. Oh My Josh! (Joshua Smith) is constantly on his phone. And Fluid Druid (Pontus Linder) is stalked by paranoid dreams that his fellow b-boys are out to steal his moves. Jealousy and frustration fracture the harmony and their final performance descends into chaos.
But whilst the concept might be conventional, this is hiphop with smarts. The group explore the tension between the audience’s expectations of a dance group (formation dancing) and each member’s individual ambition. There’s a lovely sequence where one b-boy proposes that they throw their shapes to a piece of classical music, which proves so unpopular that the others try to restrain him. The choreography is playful and surprising, doffing a cap to ballet, acrobatics and clowning, but never short-changing breakdancing fans.
The soundtrack is a gloriously eclectic romp through salsa, jazz, moody accoustic pop and classical strings, underpinned by a dirty bass that gives the show a compelling momentum. Kudos to Danny Krass who has created a rich soundscape that helps bring to life the turbulent history of the b-boy crew.
It’s hard to light dancers, particularly those who move with a degree of freedom and therefore an element of the unpredictable, but Grant Anderson does a great job. He picks out the bits that matter and teases us when the action strays into fantasy land. Karen Tennent’s set is neat and flexible and is well used within the space at Traverse 1.
The dancing is the star of the show. The performers are brilliant, consistently making things that ought to be impossible look easy. Their formation dancing is tight and perfectly timed, and their spins and freezes (a dancer holds a twist or distorted position) make you hold your breath.
There’s a lovely scene when the performers invite a group of children on stage who perform in turn with a captivating assurance. Room 2 Manoeuvre specialise in working in education and with community groups, so these talented young people are potentially a handful of their performers.
It would be nice to see the story developed a bit further, and some of the links between scenes could be strengthened. But as a fun show for adults and kids that serves as a vehicle for some mesmerising ensemble and freestyle dance, it delivered on its promise without a hitch.