The Happiness Project is Didy Veldman's first project with her new company Umanoove. It returns to touring in 2017.
The dancers are Estela Merlos, Dane Hurst, Hannah Kidd and Mathieu Geffré.
Everyone who can get a ticket should go and see The Happiness Project by Didy Veldman when it tours in 2017.
I realise that this is a bold claim, but I truly believe that The Happiness Project is a life-enhancing experience for those that love dance, music theatre or any type of art. With four superb dancers, who were very inspiring for me as a student, and engaging live music from the composer and violinist Alexander Balanescu, the production offered an evening of beautiful dance combined with subtle and insightful offerings around the theme of happiness and why we chase it.
For me, the more I see dance, the more I realise how wide the spectrum of experiences available from 'contemporary dance performances' is. The choreographer Didy Veldman has created a terrifically varied piece, with moments from all over the spectrum. Some sections are abstract in the sense that the movement does not immediately reflect one particular idea or emotion, but I feel that this is positive as it avoids the 'spoon-feeding effect'. This is where a piece doesn't leave you with any questions, but just bombards you with answers in the form of blatant storytelling. This can also be lovely, but The Happiness Project left the audience guessing just enough to keep interest. Other sections presented ideas very clearly for the audience, for example when the dancers each held designer products in turn, saying 'Prada!' and such like with different emotions and therefore infering different meaning. These more in your face sections were also effective because they forced the audience to think about the issues they were adressing. I think one of the best reasons to see a piece of dance is to be forced to confront and think about issues you hadn't thought about before, and for me The Happiness Project absolutely achieves this.
As well as beautiful dancing and thoughtful choreography, Didy Veldman has also succeeded in bringing together a production that looks and sounds beautiful. Collaboration with the composer Alexander Balanescu was taken to a new level as he spent almost the entire performance onstage with the dancers. I was lucky enough to meet one of the dancers in this piece as part of a Career's Day panel on CAT scheme (you can read all about the amazing experiences I have on Centre for Advanced Training by clicking on the CAT category on the right.) She said that working with the violinist as part of the performance was one of the most challenging aspects, but I really believe that this paid off. At first I found it quite odd seeing Balanescu on the stage as it was such a physical contrast with the intricate movement of the dancers. However, the more he walked around the stage the more I got used to it and by the end the movement and the music were intertwined together as part of the piece. Props were also used as a major feature rather than a distraction and, like all of the piece, there was huge variety. A huge piece of plastic sheeting was used, as well as boxes with internal lights, handbags, ropes and much more. Although at times the quantity of props seemed gimmicky, they were generally sucessfull and coupled with movement that enhanced them.
Overall, I think that The Happiness Project was one of the most interesting pieces of dance I've seen in a while. It particularly resounded with me because I have ambitions to create work on a similarly fine line between the abstract and the obvious, between confusing the audience and spoon-feeding them a story. I hope that someday I can do it as well as Didy Veldman.
Contemporary dance student and food-lover, sharing tips and tricks, recipes and my journey through the amazing worlds of dance and food.