Some of the most innovative public performance art I’ve ever seen graced Giffin Square, Deptford, over thee weekends in August. Four pieces, presented by the Albany as part of the London-wide Circulate festival, were moulded in the white heat of the creative crucible in which dance meets circus – and transmutes into gold. The Deptford leg of the festival began with Belly Of The Whale, which was one of the hits of Greenwich Fair in June. It involved Amanda Homa, Nathan Johnson and Stefano di Renzo tumbling, soaring and tightrope-walking on a huge rocking wood-and-steel seesaw to a live soundtrack composed and played by Gabriele Pierro on keyboards and mandolin. It was brilliant. The following weekend, Catalan company Cia Moveo gave us Conseqüències, a mix of dance and acrobatics with lots of audience participation about cause and effect and about being out of step with the rest of the world. Dancers Marta Hervás, Xavier Palomino, Núria Planes, Adrià Viñas and Pino Steiner made this a life-affirming as well as a beautiful experience through the sheer joy of their performances. They were followed by some fabulous bodypopping by kids on a summer street-dance course at the Albany. And the show was closed by Cie Dyptik, who gave us D-Construction, a hiphop piece with amazing ensemble dancing and acrobatic fence-climbing set to thunderous score melding ghetto beats and Indian voices and horns. The work, which contrasted unity and uniqueness, social obligations and freedom, was both immersive and intimate thanks to the consummate skill of the cast – Elias Ardoin, Evan Greenaway, Samir El Fatoumi, Yohann Daher, Katia Lharaig and Emilie Tarpin-Lyonnet. Circulate’s Deptford dates ended a week later on a wet Saturday afternoon with Motionhouse’s stunning work EXO which featured two humans, Martina Knight and Alasdair Stewart, and a giant JCB digger driven by Bill Power.
After a long delay while the surfaces were dried with paper towels following torrential rain, the dancers climbed all over the JCB and swayed in its buckets as it sped balletically round an area no bigger than a tennis court, raising the pair high in the air in gravity-defying arcs. At one point Stewart lost his grip on the damp metal and fell 10ft on to the paving below. The crowd gasped in horror – but mercifully he was only bruised and gamely climbed back up. The programme described this as a thrilling exploration of the relationship between man and machine. I agree – this was about as thrilling as it gets. And who would have thought a JCB can dance like a real trouper?