Review: John Ross’s Blink

Photo: Alex Batchilo

Photo: Alex Batchilo

John Ross Dance was set up initially in 2011 by Award winning choreographer John Ross. The company had it’s relaunch in 2013 when John Won the Matthew Bourne Choreographer Award. The company focuses on combining Contemporary Dance and Theatre to create exciting new ways of telling stories that are creative and engaging with a sole purpose of having work that is accessible to a wide range of audience.

Originally from Dundee and trained as an actor, John initially started his training in dance at the Scottish School of Contemporary Dance in Dundee before completing his training in dance at the prestigious London Contemporary Dance School in 2011 with a 1st class degree, where he was also the recipient of The Veronica Bruce Trust Fund, The Donald Dewar Aware to aid his progression into dance and shorted listed for the Sadler’s Wells Global Dance Competition.

John’s professional career started at The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden on the Opera Tannhauser, choreographed by Jasmin Vardimon, kickstarting an illustrious performance career with companies and choreographers including Jorge Cresis, Freddie Opoku-Addiade, Akiko Kutimara, Ace Dance & Music, Two Thirds Sky, SmallPetitKlein, C12 Dance Theatre, Opera North and Tom Dale.

But it is choreography that took John’s heart and throughout his training started to pursue this passion. His first work Wolfpack (developed from the earlier work Occupied), focusing on four males rather the worse for wear after a big night out, is still touring and has since been recorded and archived into the V&A Theatre and Performance Archives in London and also in archives at the New York Library and in Washington DC.

Commissions include for Dance United, Shoreditch Youth Dance, DanceEast (Centre of Advanced Training scheme), 2 Faced Youth Monmouthshire Youth, Scottish School of Contemporary Dance (BA programme) and collaborating in a new musical Epidemic as part of the Old Vic New Voices programme, for which he was nominated for Best Choreographer from What’s on Stage Awards.  John was awarded Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures Choreographer Award (2013), the MOKO Children’s Choreography Award (2014), and in 2015 was named as one of the BBC Performing Arts Fund’s 32 Ones to Watch.

John’s work for his own company John Ross Dance include Wolfpack, Man Down and Little Sheep, which were showcased as a triple bill at the grand Hackney Empire in 2014 as the culmination of John’s New Adventure’s Choreography Award (NACA). Man Down was John’s first company work to tour extensively, both in the UK and beyond.

John is impassioned by working with young people and students through his company’s education programme, with people of all ages from primary school through to higher education, community groups and the older participants forming part of the Blink project.

John continues to find the fusion between dance and his love for theatre fascinating, furthering his choreographic discovery through his work for John Ross Dance and other companies, continuing to question how the two art forms co-exist and how stories can be portrayed through dance. He now works as a movement director for theatre and helps to give directors a dynamic fresh take on story telling not only choreographing but looking at movement in scene work to bring a new way of story telling.

His recent show at the Stanley & Audrey Burton Theatre Blink is an interpretation of Mitch Albom’s book ‘The five People You Meet In Heaven’ –  Eddy a bitter old man dies trying to save a little girl. This begins his encounters with 5 important people from specific periods in his life.

Set to the beautifully haunting music of Composer Greg Haines, no meeting or action goes without a reaction. The themes universal: how we are affected by Influence, human connection and the power of even the smallest incidental meeting.

The performance ranges from dynamic bursts to more restrained actions and tentative movements. Whilst the narrative is not literally delineated we are encouraged to make up stories about the characters and invent narratives around them. Technically brilliant with a fine attention to detail this is a powerful piece of contemporary dance that is compulsive and compelling.

Reviewed on 4 May 2016, Stanley & Audrey Burton Theatre, Leeds.