We arrive on the uppermost (11th) floor of the NCP Car Park on Queen Charlotte Street, Bristol, to pouring rain; rain that many might stand in a shop doorway to avoid. Not the sort of rain in which you’d chose to pull up a fishing stool at 8:30pm and sit on it, exposed, waiting for something to happen. But, this is what we find ourselves doing, noticing the tower block looming above us, seeing the people in their flats, in all that dry, with their kettles and windows with a view. Lucky them.
But, whoa, lucky us too! As Luke Harney and Sam Halmarack take to the small covered stage with their instruments, the full on sound system becomes apparent. The two men push a stomach flipping beat and brooding vocals on us – sultry and dark – building an energy to get us in the mood for the five female dancers, who are about to spring one by one from their places in the crowd, finding their splashing, dancing feet in the middle of this square of onlookers clad in waterproofs or clinging to brolleys.
Of Riders and Running Horses is a Stillhouse performance project that ‘finds spaces in the margins of the city’, forcing us to consider our everyday urban settings in a different light, inviting us to reevaluate places where we come usually to carry out mundane tasks. This car park, for instance. You’d never normally stay longer than it takes to grab your bag and lock your car door, clocking only the level you are on so that you can find your vehicle when it’s time to go home. But this troupe of beautiful dancers brings us together, opens our eyes, asking us to freeze time and to watch the dazzlement and wonder that is apparent everywhere, as they gallop and change shape, beckoning to us and to each other. Moving. Together. As one.
The thing that strikes me most about this performance is that each dancer moves in a style of her own; every one of them is so individual, so unique, that you could watch any of them in isolation. There almost seems to be no formula – that’s how you dance, that’s how you dress, that’s your way of projecting yourself? Then go for it, girl! And then, effortlessly, each of you will join forces as a whole glorious movement, learning from each other, unifying. There is no getting away from it because that is how the universe works. We are one.
And once these powerful horses have finished their 40 or so minute long display of aliveness, they take us all gently by the hand to join them and, here we are, dancing together, a mix of strangers raving in the dark, in the rain, loving life completely. Perfect beat. Smiles all around. Night-time proper now. What a joy!
I thought so. My 9 year old daughter thought so. Who the hell wouldn’t?
You can find out more about Stillhouse on their website.