review: fuze 2020
The smell of mildew hangs in the air, mixed with a shared sense of anticipation in the audience as we sit, adjusting our coats to combat the unrelentingly cold draft, in darkness. Suddenly, blue lights slice through the silence, bringing with them the wonderfully deep and romantic tones of Rosa Cecilia. The Chilean-Italian-English singer set the tone for the first half of the show which was lasciviously moody, making the energetic choreography of the Fuze dancers and the Sublime Dance Troupe stand out even more. Ethereal and languid movements flowed into sequences that saw bodies distort, lurch and bounce without losing momentum, or the goggling eyes of the audience, for a moment.
The models commanded the room, drifting between the pillars almost formlessly, oozing confidence and giving personality to their clothes. Thankfully, the show was not undermined by a non-representational display of body shapes as I initially had reason to fear from the first walk. We saw an array of streetwear, sportswear, going-out wear and ensembles that could not be neatly categorised. High-street and high-fashion combined to make cool look effortless, with one brave combination of nudity and a full-length tartan skirt creating a look that could have been seen on the Burberry walk. The transitions between bold and sexy workwear to playful and fresh streetwear kept you on your toes, defying predictability and ensuring an exciting watch. As for the metamorphic element, were these transitions enough to live up to the theme of 'the process of transformation, a change in the form or nature of a thing into a new thing?'. Perhaps it was more nuanced than I had anticipated in my preview; Hugo Soer did saunter (captivatingly) through the room wearing a boxy hot-pink blazer emblazoned with faces that indeed appeared to morph and search for an identity. There was one outfit in the final walk of light and airy gauze. Yet I was left wanting more; metamorphoses had collated in my mind images of nature and transformation, of beautifully light fabrics reminiscent of fragile wings and silken cocoons. Or of the abrasive and often terrifying prospect of transformation.
Some of the dances captured this beautifully, with presentations of human vulnerability mixed with eclectic and vibrant displays of freedom and independence. Each dance display became part of a larger picture of movement until it was a wonderfully woven tapestry reflecting the ever-changing nature of things. The live performances showcased some real student talent; Laura Odemwingie's rendition of Rihanna's 'Love on the Brain' had the crowd wowed. Change and transformation in terms of the way the show progressed was handled masterfully, with the moody first-half evolving into a more upbeat second-half. The lighting and staging was minimalistic but appropriately so, and the only undermining thing to note was that the pillars restricted the viewpoint of the performers when they were stationary. Penetrating those pillars was the vibe of the crowd, which was rowdy and palpably supportive throughout.
To round it all off, as I also mentioned in the preview, FUZE has raised an extraordinary amount of money since its debut in 2013, and this years' proceeds went to Second Step, a mental health charity based in Bristol. The efforts of a really rather talented bunch of musicians, dancers, performers and fashionistas truly transformed the underground space into something vivacious and infectiously creative.