Magazine

Interview: Matthew Robinson

Matthew Robinson, a London Contemporary Dance School graduate and a Scottish Dance Theatre dancer, is returning to Resolution! on Saturday 19 January, with his first new choreography after two well-received collaborations with fellow Scottish Dance Theatre dancer Toby Fitzgibbons. Having featured him as one of the people to watch in this year's Resolution!, we caught up with him to find out more about Vacant Skin, and about his work. You can find out more about him, and buy tickets for his show at the bottom of the page.

Add a comment

Read more ...

A Very Cool Evening

Winter Portraits: an evening of choreographies and dancing both by the professionals and by all.

As a Londoner (I feel I can officially call myself a Londoner after 10 years of London living), I strive to wear the most stylish vintage clothes, know the trendiest unknown bars and go to “cool” events. Last night I had achieved the Tel Aviv equivalent.

Add a comment

Read more ...

Resolution! 2013 At A Glance

Resolution! was founded by John Ashford in 1990, and while it's quickly become an essential rite of passage for new dance companies and new choreographers, in the three years since John Ashford left The Place, Resolution! seems to have been seeking ways of redefining itself, especially in the face of a changing industry. The 2013 edition seems to have one of strongest and most diverse lineups of recent years, while The Place has transformed the support they offer, providing even more much-needed guidance on presenting one's work.

As Resolution! and Aerowaves have parted company, there will be 81 companies performing in 27 triple bills over six weeks. While some of the companies and choreographers may be known to various people, either to their friends and peers, or as dancers in well-known companies - what about everyone else?

As it's impossible to expect people to attend every single night, it's valuable to have recommendations on who to watch out for - as one of the selling points of Resolution! is the opportunity to catch The Next Big Thing - perhaps the next Matthew Bourne or Hofesh Shechter or even Rafael Bonachela...?

Add a comment

Read more ...

Rehearsals in Words: CoCoDanse December 2012

December for me saw the beginnings, and eventually the bulk of, rehearsals for CoCo Danse's Resolution! 2013 piece, 'SetBack'. Wanting to document the process and experience that myself, the other dancers, the musician and the choreographer were having, I asked each person in the team for a word to sum up each rehearsal.

A harder task than you might think, what follows is those words, and my thoughts at each stage of the process.

'SetBack' by Corrinne Jola will be performed at The Place on Wednesday 13th February.

Add a comment

Read more ...

A Curtain Up on new Israeli dance talent

At the start of each year, I thoroughly enjoy going to The Place to watch Resolution! to check out the new choreographers, styles and trends evolving in the dance world - I love seeing if there is a new wave or style evolving. Therefore, I was very pleased to be attending Israel’s version of Resolution!, named Curtain Up.    

Add a comment

Read more ...

Fall into Movement: Gaga Class with Ohad Naharin

I am copying this from my notebook, because as soon as I left this particular Gaga dance class, I knew I had to get it down on paper. With my three Gaga dance classes a week, you'd think that Gaga would have become part of my normal routine by now, however Gaga still gives me freedom, and a feeling of pure joy and exuberance!

Today’s Gaga class has taken those feelings to a whole new level, therefore as soon as I was on the bus home, I had to write down my thoughts. Today I did Gaga class as taught by the very Gaga creator and Batsheva Dance Company Artistic director himself: Ohad Naharin.

Add a comment

Read more ...

New Adventures: Sleeping Beauty

{plgMFV}

 

Well-known for his classic adaptations, Matthew Bourne has once again embraced the opportunity to recreate a fairy tale: Sleeping Beauty. Claiming a Tchaikovsky ballet for the third time running, Bourne has streamlined this story into a gothic retelling, adding whimsical elements to delight and surprise the audience.

Originally choreographed in 1890 by Marius Petipa, Sleeping Beauty was then considered a technical venture of epic proportions. Narrowing the lens of the story, Bourne created token gestures referencing original movements, but reinvents and appropriates the solos at will. Instead of a ballroom filled with people, the audience is given a room of Fairies, bestowing their gifts to delight the child in the dark of night. In a delightful twist, the Lilac Fairy emerges surprisingly as a dominant male, a commanding and protective spirit for the child.

Most notable was Bourne’s alteration of characterisations. No longer is Aurora in the sidelines of her own story, but is represented as a willful and engaging child demonstrated through the clever use of puppetry. An endearing scene with the child Aurora being chased around the room by her nurse allows for the believable development of Aurora into an adult, one curious and rebellious enough to prick her finger on an enchanted flower.

If baby puppet Aurora dominated and delighted the audience in act one, act two’s surprise was the arrival of the evil Carabosse’s son, Caradoc. Rivaling the love Aurora had found in her family’s gardener Leo, Caradoc attempts to make Aurora his own, intending to claim her life as he takes her as his own. Thwarting his plan, Leo is only able to penetrate the gates of the house and survive the sleep through the mercy of Christopher Marney as the Lilac Fairy, who is all gothic grandeur, possessing hidden vampiric talent. These modern inflections are what allow Bourne’s adaptation to re-contextualise the story itself, cleverly providing sound solutions to holes in the tale (how would Leo live through one hundred years without being enchanted?).

Though large-scale scenes are avoided as a general rule in this work, there was still some surprising alternatives. Aurora’s sixteenth birthday, occurring in 1911 was, with the aid of talented designer Lez Brotherston, an Edwardian explosion of waltz and ‘The Castle Walk’. Equally stimulating was “the land of the sleepwalkers”, a clever use of blindfolded dancers under enchantment allowing for the continuation of Aurora as an active dancer rather than as a passive character.

Those who prefer a true take on Tchaikovsky’s ballet may be disappointed by the alterations Bourne has undertaken, but in doing so Bourne has recreated, spliced and spiced up the original. Focussed around the central story, contextualized to present day, Bourne has evolved the fairytale to create something engaging and applicable to audiences who see the true value and timelessness of a good fairytale.

Add a comment

The Israeli Ballet meets Itzik Galili

 “Circles to square and cubes to double would give a man exercise trouble” - but not to Itzik Galili!

This is a review of The Israeli Ballet’s performance of Israeli choreographer Itzik Galili’s work. “Circles to square and cubes to double would give a man exercise trouble” is a quote by mathematician Mathew Prior. Why am I quoting maths in a dance blog? You will have to wait and see...

I have always been a fan of the ballet, making numerous trips to see the Royal Ballet, and I would bend over backwards to get tickets for the American Ballet Theatre whenever they arrived at Sadler’s Wells (which was always a race for best seats). Most of all, of course, for my favourite company, Birmingham Royal Ballet. The BRB are my favourite ballet company: not just because I was born and raised in the West Midlands, but due to their adaptability from classical to more modern pieces and how they always give me feelings of butterflies (whether happiness or emotional). I was therefore very excited on Thursday night to get my first viewing of The Israeli Ballet at the Jerusalem Theatre. In a country with an explosive dance scene, was I about to have a new favourite ballet company?

I would first of all like to note the Jerusalem Theatre itself: I love coming here as it reminds me of home. The concrete building, the modernist touch to the architecture, the winding and overlapping hallways and the 70’s styled seating: it all reminds me of how the Barbican Theatre or Royal Festival Hall looks and feels. So I always get joy going to the Jerusalem Theatre.

Another factor to add to my excitement of the evening was that I thought I was going to see one of my favourite dance pieces, A Linha Curva by the choreographer Itzik Galili. I have seen this dance work three times, performed by the Rambert Dance Company, as I loved it so much.
 

{youtube}hIj0_o6gcSw{/youtube}
Rambert Dance Company performing A Linha Curva.

 

A Linha Curva has a high energy Brazilian feel, with complex canons and extremely good use of lighting with square patterns, which engaged Rambert's dancers with a sense of “humanness”. As the dancers “partied” through the dance, it felt that the Rambert dancers were at a party, giving us a sense of who they were individually. The piece appeared to be choreographed around the squared chessboard lighting and through the upbeat percussive score.

On the picture of the poster for The Israeli Ballet I was excited to see the same coloured chessboard lighting: was I to see my favourite piece again? I was wrong, though I got the right choreographer: Itzik Galili. Galili is Israeli, a former Batsheva dancer who has choreographed for Batsheva Dance Company, Nederlands Dans Theater II and more recently the English National Ballet. His use of lighting, complex use of canon and high-paced but still clean-cut choreography appear to be a signature of his work. The number of groups of dancers onstage also seem to be integral to his work, giving it a mathematical approach, making his work so stunning and aesthetically pleasing. “Wherever there is number, there is beauty” (as quoted by mathematician Diadochus Proclus) - yes, here is the reasoning for the maths quotes, more to follow!

The Israeli Ballet performed three of his works that evening, including Hikarizatto, and And The Earth shall Bear Again, which the English National Ballet premiered this year.

I feel the first mistake of the evening was having such similar works by the same choreographer in the same evening, as Galili’s works all had same feel and texture on the outside. This appeared to my friends as “boring”, but what they did not pay attention to was the detail of his work which I so admired. As the great mathematician Henri Poincaré said “mathematicians do not study objects, but relations between objects. Thus, they are free to replace some objects by others so long as the relations remain unchanged. Content to them is irrelevant: they are interested in form only”. If you are a dance teacher, like me, you should be using his work as a guideline for successful canon. In Hikarizatto and And The Earth shall Bear Again, the dancers moved in and out of each other’s phrases smoothly and with such ease as if they were dancing on ice. It was much unexpected when they did the canon in such unexpected ways so you were always kept on your toes as an audience member. For example, at a few points, the dancers form a line at the front of the stage and some start a movement pharse with arms gestures coming up and down from the floor with swings and pliés. Some of the dancers would join in with canon of that phrase, an odd dancer would then start another phrase, and then another dancer would reverse the new phrase and maybe return to the original canon. It was all unexpected and kept you wanting more.

The lighting for Hikarizatto was stunning and added to the drama and unexpectedness of the piece. At one point, the dancers moved back in their pairs and in canon as they left the stage with a repeated phrase within squares of light. However, as the dancers backed towards upstage right, the last couple in the canon appeared to “switch off” the squared lights. This sense of lighting showing and hiding movement seems to be played with in all of Galili’s pieces. Later, during a beautiful duet at the front of the stage, there was a line of dancers moving from stage right to left in a slow continuous manner. They were lit very dimly so they were only slightly seen. This made them even more intriguing and a beautiful contrast to the striking strong broken ballet duet at the front. In an interview, Galili told the Jewish Chronicle that “lighting is poetry. It can define personalities, it can distinguish between cold and warmth, And it can also define space.” The lighting for Hikarizatto was used in a way that it almost became the third performer in the space, as if the lighting was dancing with the dancers.
 

{youtube}adDLJAXEs88{/youtube}
Hikarizatto

The movement style of Galili is very hard to describe within one blog, but I will generalise. At moments there are obvious ballet structures from extended arabesques, to pirouette on piquée’s, to traditional partnering of boys supporting girls and pointe work. However between these moments there is an almost melting, breaking of joints and back to extension. There is also a sense of each dancer connecting to unusual points with their own bodies. At times I feel in Galili’s choreography that the dancers both duet with themselves and with their partners.

Earlier I mentioned that the first mistake was The Israeli Ballet doing three similar Galili pieces in the same evening bill. The second mistake is that I don’t think The Israeli Ballet was ready for Galili’s technical, intricate and fast-paced work, and it appeared too complex for their abilities. Certainly they could perform the work, but didn't really get to the depth and process of Galili's work! I felt very critical of the dancers as I left the theatre, with a few “off moments” playing on my mind. At one point, one of the dancers fiddled with her costume and pulled it down, a moment of beautiful and complex canon ruined by a very confused dancer, but the most shocking moment was when a dancer went to run on stage, hesitated and retreated, only then to be pushed back on stage by another dancer!

The Israeli Ballet Company, however, has only been dancing in contemporary dance pieces for the last year; the ballet company itself has only been going since 1967, which is relatively young, and it remains the only ballet company in Israel to be performing the big international full-length ballets. Nevertheless, I did feel a bit disappointed as I felt they didn’t do Galili’s work justice, especially after seeing his work performed by Rambert Dance Company. I was expecting to see that Israeli “fire in the belly” but I didn’t, I just saw hesitance.

This made me stop and think: for the last three months, I have been raving about how great the Israeli dance scene is, especially recently as I was interviewed by BBC Radio 4 about the Israel Dance Scene. I spoke about how wonderful and unique Gaga is, how technically brilliant and fierce the performers of Batsheva are - but wait. I had forgotten the amazing dance talent we have back home in England. We have a rich and diverse dance history with an ever-growing excellence in dance training and companies. Rambert Dance Company are great, bringing their versatility, their talent and energy to each performance. Even Galili mentioned Rambert to The Stage newspaper: “Stunning dancers. You English are lucky to have them – they are God’s trophy in your hands.” This is definitely true as we know that Einstein said that “dancers are the athletes of God”. We are very lucky to have great companies like Rambert or Akram Khan. So I still have BRB as my favourite ballet company, although my favourite dance company still remains to be Batsheva Dance Company... come on England, take them on!

 

You can listen to Tori's BBC interview here: www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/ipm

Add a comment

C-12 Dance Theatre: Emerge

{plgMFV}

 

The Space in Westferry provided an intimate, up-close and somewhat cosy setting for this triple bill of work by C-12 Dance Theatre’s established and emerging choreographers.

James Williams’s ‘In New Light’ opened the programme, demonstrating slick, fluid, well-rehearsed movement material performed on, over, around and underneath a black sofa.  A duet for Williams and Ana Dias, ‘In New Light’ starts with a bang (a very loud bang, from live musician Janette Williams’s drumkit), and gradually builds from dimly lit, thoughtfully placed gestural motifs, into an accomplished partnership of the two performers.

There is a serene and nonchalant energy as Dias and Williams deftly shift and tip the sofa to create surprising and pleasing moments that are revisited but constantly developed and further explored throughout the work.

The live drums are accompanied by Andrew Willshire on bass guitar, which is made the focus of the work as the dancers become still. Willshire’s melancholic chords serve to bring about a shift in energy in the piece, and give way to a simple exchange and first suggestion of real human connection between the two dancers. Building on this, the movement relationship becomes playful towards the end of the piece, developing the work and changing the feeling of the space in a way that enriched the precision of the movement in a way that had not been demonstrated earlier on in the work.

After a short break, the evening moved on to the second guest choreographer of the evening,  Miranda Mac Letten’s ‘The Endeavour To Be Super’. This was a playful, engaging work that explores its four characters’ feelings of being behind the mask of a super hero, and then exposed as themselves.

Letten demonstrates insightful use of stock cartoon super hero movements, and all four of the creeping, tip-toeing performers made good use of their proximity to the audience in the intimate performance space.

Comedic sequences of a phone ringing, and the dancers covertly shifting around the set, comprising of two wallpapered panels with framed Batman prints on, gave a sense of a plot thickening, although it is never quite clear what that plot might be.


The light-hearted, mischievous exchanges between the four dancers continue, and build into very genuine struggles and scuffles, supported by the familiar ‘BANG’, ‘ZAP’, ‘WHAM’ cartoon signs; it is humorous and enjoyable. The humour begins to dissipate towards the end, as John Ross reacts physically to Camila Guiterrez dropping sheets of cartoon words, and a more sinister tone is suggested, just as the piece ends, leaving Ross lying defeated on the floor, with a sense that there may be something here to be continued.

The final piece of the night was an extract from ‘Scorned’ by C-12’s Artistic Director Annie-Lunnette Deakin-Foster, featuring ‘four fierce, powerful and disgruntled women’. Through a series of lyrical unison phrases, and detail in trembling hands and tightly wound facial expressions, the audience are witness to their collective and individual angst.

These four very individual bodies (two in white slip dresses, two in black) are perhaps not used as effectively as possible, but as a group they are powerful. Moments of note include skilful use of a large white sheet, entwining each dancer at a time, shifting, lifting and carrying them through a series of dynamic and unexpected exchanges.

The movement material constantly responds to the soundtrack of rich strings, harpsichord and electric guitar, at times in a way which can seem over the top or forced. The more engaging sections are of defiant unison, with echoes of vocabulary from strong women such as Martha Graham.

With a five-night run at The Space, there is every reason to see this varied and engaging evening of work.

 

Add a comment

Batsheva Dance Company: The Athletes of God


If you know about dance in Israel, then you are bound to know about Batsheva Dance Company.

England is currently hosting a successful tour of Batsheva Ensemble, Batsheva’s younger company which is performing Ohad Naharin’s Deca Dance (2000). Despite protests and interruptions from anti-Israeli groups, it appears that the English dance world is beginning to see and appreciate the power and uniqueness of Batsheva. My parents went to see Deca Dance at the Birmingham Hippodrome last week to get a taste of why I had to come to Israel to study dance. They were both overwhelmed by the intensity, the unexpected moments, the humorous moments and most of all the way the dancers moved. To quote my father, “They moved so differently! When a dancer would move an arm, for example, and reached a place but then something inside that arm was still moving and extending out...” "EXACTLY!" I screamed down the phone at him - this is the effect of Gaga which the dancers train intensely in (see last week’s post) but also so much more...

So why did the Batsheva Dance Company receive a title like “the athletes of God” from the San Francisco Chronicle? Batsheva’s ability to amaze audiences stems back from even before the introduction of Gaga technique of the '90s. Believe it or not, Batsheva Dance Company was actually originally a Graham-based company. Who would have thought from watching their work today that they used to be steeped in Graham technique? In 1964, Bathsabee de Rothschild was the original founder and funder for Batsheva; she had an interest in Martha Graham’s work and therefore was one of Graham’s company's supporters. Through her funding, the Martha Graham Dance Company was able to come to Israel to perform in 1956, setting off a tidal wave of modern dance in Israel, which was at the time influenced by the German Expressionist artform Ausdrukstantz (expressive dance).

In 1964, when Bathsabee de Rothschild founded the Batsheva Dance Company, she made Martha Graham the artistic advisor. Dancers of Batsheva trained in ballet and Graham technique, and  Batsheva Dance Company was the first to perform Graham’s work outside Graham’s own company. Batsheva Dance Company toured worldwide and was a success, with one critic quoting Batsheva’s performance of Graham repertoire as bringing “intensity (more than Martha Graham Company) even though [they] lacked technical ability”. Batsheva dancers already had that “fire” in their bellies right from the start. Due to internal disagreements, however, Rothschild withdrew her funding and left with Jeanette Ordman to set up Bat-Dor Dance Company in 1968, leaving Batsheva stranded, having lost their right to perform Graham's repertoire (in 1975) and with constantly changing artistic directors. Nevertheless, Graham’s loss was Batsheva’s gain, as Batsheva could now focus on developing new Israeli choreographic works, especially by their own dancers such as Ohad Naharin. In fact, on the strength of Naharin’s choreographic work with Batsheva and international companies like Nederlands Dance Theater, he became artistic director of Batsheva in 1990.

Naharin began his tenure as artistic director with choreographing shorter pieces which  were quite theatrical. For example, Kyr (1990) contains one of Naharin’s most known sections “Echad Mi Yodea”, which you can view in the video below at 2:22, or go and see it live at Sadler's Wells!

{youtube}hz6nUMwlSqY{/youtube}

The accumulative build in the music is reflected in the accumulation in movement. The throwing of costumes in the floor, the use of the chairs as part of the actions, the recognisable costumes which immediately connect you to your own associations: very theatrical compared to his current choreography. Naharin started with works with theatrical elements adding to his work whereas in more recent works, dancers wear tightly fitted and simpler costumes, relying on the technical ability of the dancers as a more important tool to convey theme or form. It appears as if Naharin has realised the power of his movement is enough to stand alone without being “decorated”.

Naharin has also developed his use of staging in that he sometimes uses in the round such as in Sessions (2011), which I was very lucky to see at Batsheva's home Suzanne Dellal Centre. I was really excited for not only was I going to see my second Batsheva performance, but also seeing them on their home turf. I entered the studio performance space with an extra sense of anticipation as it was in the round with each side consisting of just two rows of audience seats. I was very excited to sit at the front: I was about to see Batsheva dancers up close.

Sessions is a structured improvised piece and there were random “reserved” seats in the audience for the dancers to sit in during the performance. The work was a mixture of different repertoire phrases which came together with all or some or danced alone by the dancers; the overall structure was very clever as you never felt bored, while the silence and softness was always inexpertly broken and the power and fast pace was always unknowingly dissipated. At moments, the dancers would directly dance towards audience members, seemingly intimidating, but I enjoyed this sense of menace from the dancers, as if the feeling of intimidation was the “other dancer” in the piece. Furthermore, sitting so close, you realised how POWERFUL every movement was, from moments of basic slow controlled walking or suspended balletic penché arabesques to moments of fast contact duets and moments of fast strong jerky moments. There were also humorous moments where the dancers were miming the lyrics to the sexual song with awkwardly-held positions.

I have two favourite sections: one was at the start; after few minutes of slow and controlled movements from a few of the dancers, there was a sudden burst from a male a dancer and all the dancers were in and out of each other’s body parts with unusual swift duets, lifts and pulls. The other was a climax in a soft romantic song where one by one, the dancers had joined in holding hands and were circling. All of a sudden, a dancer abruptly burst into the circle on his knees, and off the dancers went again to the fast-paced duets. Overall, you could not tell what was structured and what was improvised, which is what I love most of all. What I also loved was spotting one of my Gaga teachers performing. As a teacher and person, she is very sweet and softly spoken; as a performer she had the most strong and defined movements ever, but also her face was FIERCE!

The fact that Naharin’s work can be seen as high art and also accessible art for all is also what I love about Batsheva, while Naharin also uses moments of humour which can be enjoyed by all. For example in Hora (2009), the dancers bop their heads and create “macho” movements to Tomika’s synthesised classical music.

{youtube}KbljSbbcOo0{/youtube}

There is also sometimes a sense that his works should be enjoyed and not taken too seriously. This is emphasised in Gaga classes: when the students are concentrating too hard, the teacher will always repeat “Come on guys, stop taking it so seriously, enjoy, have fun!” Naharin has also adapted shows for younger audiences; it's not quite the same as in going to see Angelina Ballerina performances at the Royal Opera House, but he has taken his own dances and adapted them slightly. Decal’e is based on Deca Dance or a fun and interactive piece like Kamuyot (2003).

{youtube}__VVKBqCvGk{/youtube}

Most of all, what amazes you about Batsheva is of course their movement. When you watch the dancers you truly realise how they came to be called “The athletes of God”. Naharin’s choreography appears to create an inner fluidity, an inner pulse, as if the dancers have a flow of electricity or water coursing in their body.

In my first month here in Israel, I participated in an intensive workshop with Batsheva Dance Company ex-dancers to learn repertoire from Max (2007).  This repertoire is connected to Naharin’s voice saying ten accumulated words. We worked on four different sets of ten words then finished with a layered set of feet sequences, jumps and gestures. On the outside, the movements may appear clear and simple, but we would be gasping for breath by the end. It was such a challenge to move from extreme and opposite positions and actions or from extreme dynamic to dynamic. Each position was particular; we were always informed how we needed to hold positions strongly but with a soft element?!? There was also a position where your hand was flexed strongly at 90 degrees, but your fingers were held softly and not so straight?!?  When I danced each action, I had to imagine a different concept: I couldn’t dance Max just thinking I was angry or imagining concepts like how my ex-boyfriend makes me feel; I had to think of a different reason why each action was performed. For example, I would imagine shooting at someone, then ducking from a tennis ball, then the next as if I was a waiter. Later, when I performed this repertoire, I had to perform as if I was throwing away my insides to the audience to get the same Batsheva fierceness! I feel that Batsheva dancers dance as they have two dancing bodies in one: their flesh as a dancing being and  their skeletal structure as another dancing being - sometimes they work together, and sometime they work differently. I feel Batsheva are on a whole different level - even planet! - to most dancers and definitely merit the title “athletes of God”.

Please go and check out Batsheva Ensemble to see Ohad Naharin’s Deca Dance on tour. Deca Dance is a collection of sections from many of Naharin’s works, so you will Naharin’s choreography at his best: powerful, explosive and soul-grabbing! You can catch them at Sadler’s Wells from 19th to 21st November: tickets are still available from www.sadlerswells.com/show/Batsheva-Ensemble-Deca-Dance
 

Add a comment

Batsheva Ensemble: Deca Dance

{plgMFV}

 

Some might describe Batsheva Ensemble as "NDT2 with beards". Both companies are peopled with prodigiously talented dancers in their late teens and early 20s, both perform works by Ohad Naharin - and in fact, part of the joy of this evening's performance was in seeing pieces previously performed at Sadler's Wells by NDT2 - but the similarity peters out there. Batsheva Ensemble's performances are an explosion of Gaga technique, the movement language developed by Artistic Director Ohad Naharin back in the '90s, and which we've had limited exposure to so far through Hofesh Shechter's work - but Batsheva Ensemble reminds us of the full richness and potential of this way of dancing.

Starting with a solitary dancer entertaining the audience before the show started, the stage slowly filled with more and more dancers, moving individually until their movement seemed to snap into sync as a voiceover commanded "Ignore. Ignore All" - fitting words for a performance disrupted by anti-Israeli protests.

While we've watched Ohad Naharin's works previously through NDT2's performances, and Batsheva Dance Company's three prior visits to London, this is our first chance to see his works performed by his own dancers in over four years and fittingly, Deca Dance is a medley of Naharin's past works, an ever-evolving selection which varies according to the current repertoire of the parent company. It's an excellent way to explore the great diversity of Naharin's creativity, and the talent of his young dancers. Even the music ranged from traditional Hebrew songs and the Academy of Ancient Music all the way to Goldfrapp. And throughout the evening, we're given ample opportunities to marvel at the unique quality of the dancers' movement, whether of their sheer physical control, whether in tiny movements, or how perfectly in sync they perform, even when all 16 dancers are on stage.

Although excerpts from eight works were performed, the standout pieces were Black Milk, Virus and Kyr. Black Milk, with five men wearing just longyi-like trousers, was oddly reminiscent of Russell Maliphant's recent The Rodin Project, with elegant sculptural choreography which developed to give the work a more tribal feel, forging strong relationships between the dancers. Spurred on by Paul Smadbeck’s “Etude no. 3 for Marimba", the movement was lively and dynamic, always flowing, whether the dancers were leaping in the air, or smearing their faces and bodies with mud.

Other works such as Virus showed how tightly choreographed the entire company can perform, with solos alternating between group, well, body-shaking, while an duet frin Mabul to baroque music displays Naharin's quirkiness, largely consisting of a man trying to poke his partner's stomach. And Kyr. While clips of it are available on YouTube, little prepares you for the sheer power of seeing it performed live, with the dancers throwing themselves backwards (or in one poor dancer's case, endlessly forwards), hats flung away and the dancers shouting along to the song.

It's impossible to mention Batsheva Ensemble's performances without referring to the protests which have dogged them since their tour started in late October. Hefty security measures were in place at Sadler's Wells - as their Brighton performance had had to be cancelled due to the protests - which delayed the start of the show, meaning the audience was treated to an impromptu entertainment by two of the dancers until the show could start. And when protesters in the auditorium shouted out, the audience tried to drown them out with applause for the dancers.

While the show was tainted by unpleasantness and delays, if anything, it increased the audience's support and appreciation, creating a truly electric atmosphere, itself boosted by the amazing performances. There are only two chances left to see Batsheva Ensemble in London, and few tickets left; whatever the inconvenience, do NOT miss them!

Add a comment

Alias: Sideways Rain

{plgMFV}

 

Sideways Rain presents Alias' choreographer Guihermo Botelho's take on the evolution of mankind and our constant need to change and adapt. The cast of 16 dancers perform a series of movement in a continuous flow from left to right.

It starts with performers crawling across the stage on a haunting score by Mexican composer Fernando Corona. Music and movement accelerates and the performers become almost like insects or primal creatures, relevant to the theme of the piece. The choreography then takes on a liquid quality: a fluidity that kicks off the optical illusion that the floor of the stage is moving like a conveyor belt. This trick runs throughout the whole performance very successfully.

The constant stream of bodies across the stage in varying movement sequences also starts dehumanising the performers who at times become what could be viewed as a rolling bush, a passing fish or any other creature that one might envisage. Botelho creates an environment open to interpretation. There is limited but quite beautiful interactions constantly interrupted by the flow which seems incapable of stopping.

Towards the end, the sequences become increasingly human, with dancers now looking up or down, altogether starting to acknowledge their surroundings. Very subtle costume changes happen seamlessly, accentuating the gender of performers: women lose their trousers for skirts or dresses and men their tshirts for shirts. Then, the flow hastens in a final crescendo that ends up with naked bodies running across the stage pulling a thin string along with them. This results in another optical illusion of speed and movement which, combined with the naked runners, feels like a commentary on the human condition of our need to just ‘keep going’, much like life itself.

The ‘evolution’ doesn’t happen chronologically or in an explicit way but it is somewhat successful in creating a reflection on mankind’s journey - if you read the programme notes. Intermittent lulls and dips of energy were felt throughout the audience but not for very long. However it did make the performance slightly lumpy and not as cohesive as one would hope.

The main downfall of this performance is the confusing on-off narrative moments which feel unnecessary, out of place and completely disposable. At one point in the constant stream, a man and a woman stop and acknowledge each other. That moment felt like the performance was gearing in a different, maybe more explicit direction but ended up being yet another isolated incident which just didn’t quite work.

The cast really showcased some incredible dance talent and control, all magnified by their connection as a company which comes across very strongly.

Overall, Sideways Rain is a visually pleasing performance which plays very clever optical tricks and successfully makes dancers shapeshift from humans to ‘things’ through movement. However, it slightly lacked in consistency partly due to the odd isolated attempts to create a narrative disrupting the flow of energy felt by the audience.


Add a comment

Vincent Dance Theatre: Motherland

{plgMFV}

 

One of the great things about the performance space in the Robin Howard Dance Theatre at The Place is the proximity of the audience to the performers and their experiences on stage. As Charlotte Vincent’s cast of ten (five men, four women and one child) present their smiling selves to their audience in the opening of Motherland, the smiles connected and felt infectious, many in the audience smiling back at them.

The opening moves into a sequence which recurs four more times before the work is over: a female performer slugs a bloodlike substance from a wine bottle against the stark white backdrop, lifts her skirts, and hovers over it. Diagonally opposite her, another woman collapses in a heap, all to the gentle sounds of musician Scott Smith at the piano.

As with this recurring scene, marking a passing of time perhaps, suggestion is everything in this work. There are comical suggestions, as when dancer Robert Clark unzips his trousers to pull out a banana, and enthusiastically eat it; there are more profound suggestions, as young performer Leah Yeger asks a seductively standing Patrycja Kujawska, ‘why are you doing that?’.

The young Yeger’s presence in the work serves to encourage the audience to see things through younger eyes: moments when she sees something she is perhaps not supposed to, or is beckoned away by another performer highlight further what it is that we are watching.

Vincent utilises her varied cast wonderfully, and the partnering we see in a slow-motion fight sequence (between two men, between two women, between a man and a woman, with an old couple dancing and a child watching) is a testimony to her trademark strong partnering material. And yet nothing was forced, or over the top, or gratuitous. There was almost a sense of containment of these clearly very accomplished performers; if anything, they were perhaps held back in terms of movement to allow a more human side to radiate through. An example of this is Greig Cooke’s idiosyncratic solo, which recurred many times, in many forms, shifting forwards and backwards, where he is joined by two men in a show of raw, shouting masculinity, and later it becomes a tender male / female duet.

There is wildly, comically-celebrated simulated sex, there is a trio of screaming female rock musicians in their underwear, there is an uplifting ensemble sequence revelling in the fertility of the Earth. There are moments of true ridiculousness, one being Janusz Orlik in a little black dress and stilettos, gyrating and screaming out graphic pop song lyrics, and moments of real human tenderness, as we hear Benita Oakley,  the eldest member of the cast, tell her story of being a young, unmarried mother. The live–voiced (by performer Aurora Lubus) ‘baby sounds’ which accompany this should not work, but somehow do: it is absorbing and emotive.

These tender moments that draw you in are rife throughout Motherland, and too often the very functional transitions into the following scene took something away from the momentum, and otherwise real cohesion, of the work.

The subject of gender and particularly of femininity is gently, comically, but very definitely highlighted. It is interesting though that the five male performers are never outwardly aggressive, dominating, or intimidating towards the women; any idea such as this is simply implied, or suggested. It is suggested through sequences such as when musicians Alexandru Catona and Scott Smith stand either side of Patrycja Kujawska shouting, calling for ‘a virgin and a whore’, a woman ‘in control, but not too controlling’, ‘mother material, but not a single mother’.

The issues that Motherland explores are all issues we are aware of, all things that we are aware we ought to change. Not needing to give us any new information, what it does do is gently nudge these ideas and stories to the forefront of our minds. In an entertaining, emotive, albeit rather long two hours, it gives them a human face, it highlights how ridiculous things have become. And through astute casting, and giving only just enough away, it successfully, quietly questions the effect that all this has on our future generations.


Add a comment

Jasmin Vardimon: Freedom

{plgMFV}

 

Freedom, Jasmin Vardimon’s new work is a hard-hitting overload of scenarios, exploring what it is that creates freedom for the individual, ultimately posing the suggestion that this concept may only be possible in the imagination. Intriguing in concept, the actuality of this idea seemed to spill forth in a hazy, convoluted way, often muddying scenarios which had, at first, seemed clearer.

A promising beginning, Vardimon (in collaboration with Guy Bar-Amotz) created a set which resembled a forest, abstractly constructed using pipes and greenery. The atmosphere in itself was effective, and formed an interesting point of collision for incoming vignettes both adapting to and contrasting with the environment. Music blasts forth and permeates the set, energising the dancers with a popular mix from John Lennon to Led Zeppelin.

In her signature style, Vardimon’s movement style is virtuosic and powerful. Dancers toss themselves around the stage, and even in quieter moments strut with a sense of purpose. This movement style lends itself to duets that are mesmerizing in their physical and emotive gravity. In one instance, a couple pull toward one another and push one another away, a convincing display of freedom through passion. These explorations of freedom are tokens that there was some deeper choreographic exploration on the theme of freedom, though not evenly along all avenues.

Entertaining in small chunks, there were a few too many moments of repetitious uncertainty. In one episode, a girl comes on stage, playfully whispering, “I want to… tell you… a story… it’s about… ” Though this scene repeats itself constantly through the piece, it hardly develops, and the inefficiency of language (and thus a barrier to freedom?) is not strong enough to thoroughly convince the audience of the idea.

These vignettes continue, though demonstrating no further connectivity. Many that are revisited are seen through a darker shade, and antagonistic take on the initial idea. An effective form for a longer development, the length and depth of these explorations did not do the dancers justice. The scenarios became too many and too non-sensical, often self-defeating.

While exciting to see a performance where the dancers really moved, the overarching form disrupted the power in the work. Vardimon’s movement vocabulary remains exciting and vibrant, but in a structure so dissonant, one can’t help but leave a little disappointed.

Add a comment

“Connect this to your Passion to Move... to Dance”

This sentence opened my year of dance training here in Israel: it has changed how I see, move and, most importantly, love dance more than ever before. This sentence is what makes Israel’s dance scene so great - this is due to the dancers here sweating fierceness and passion from their bodies: dancers from companies like Batsheva Dance Company who are such soul-catching and commanding dancers to watch. Therefore, this is why myself and many others from around the world are drawn to dance in Israel.

“Connect this to your Passion to move... to dance” is a regular teacher feedback given in Gaga classes. As readers, you may now go off now to Google “Gaga Dance” and may find yourself with many YouTube clips of endless dance routines to the famous Lady Gaga songs, but Gaga has stemmed way back before the lady herself: it's a movement technique derived in the '90s from Batsheva’s artistic director Ohad Naharin. Gaga was named for its simplicity, so easy a baby can say it, and it distances itself from becoming “Ohad’s technique”.

Also, since the creation of Gaga, the technique has been constantly evolving, adapting with how it’s taught and what is involved: the Gaga classes I have discovered this year will probably not be not the same in the future. This also explains perfectly what Gaga is: an ongoing exploration of movement possibilities. The Gaga lessons are structured with layered tasks which explore how differently you can use and move your body. Furthermore, from what I feel, Gaga is one of the best whole-body workouts: there have been many classes where I have finished with my body and clothes drenched in sweat.

There are two types of Gaga classes: Gaga People and Gaga Dancers. Gaga People is a class which is open to all: all ages, genders, sizes and abilities. Gaga was originally developed for non-dancers: in fact, it was initiated by one of Naharin’s costume designers asking for dance lessons. What I love most about going to Gaga People is that it gives me my fill and love of community dance (plus the nonstop smiles of the older participants give me pure joy). In Gaga we are all together and moving together, regardless of who we are or who they are. Gaga takes this a step further; with the uniqueness of the class, there is a sense of not being able to pick out who is a dancer and who is not. Gaga is taught together but it is about your own individual journey, your own exploration.

A typical class (I say "typical" although each class is different) starts with gentle “floating” - floating your body as if in water: not rising up but with a sense of spreading). This “floating” is not moving your body in space but reacting to an inner pulse: “travelling stuff”. A first layer of a task is given, for example you may be asked to initiate the movement from your “Lena” (a Gaga term for the pelvic  area) and see how the body reacts, or move from the “moons” of your feet (the term for the base of your toes/ball/heel of your feet). This is explored and then layered with more tasks. For example you may be asked to move as if “your bones are swimming in your body” ... hang on a minute, don’t forget your “travelling stuff in your body” at the same time. Or even move as if “your flesh is grabbing your bones” (a whole different sensation!) This class climaxes to a finish with you moving to “your own groove”, exploring on your own what you have discovered in class and most of all, “connecting this to your passion to move... to dance!” At this point, after approximately an hour, your body is exhausted but the comment of “connecting to your passion” makes you rediscover your groove and you end up going for it!! At the end of the class, you are asked to shake it off as if you are taking a cold shower or rinsing spaghetti in hot water. Then you have a final patting/slapping down of the body and a final floating of the body as you feel the “travelling stuff” in your body from the vicious slapping or extreme movement.

As for Gaga Dancers classes, they are a must for every dancer. If you are fortunate to be a dancer in London, there is a weekly Gaga class at Danceworks by Chisato Ohno (details). As a dancer, I have never explored so many possibilities of how I can move within my pliés, tendus and balances with little muscle use, or how they can be worked/pushed further or can be connected/disconnected from other body parts. There are superb challenges like shaking your body while still floating your arms. Applying more than one contrasting dynamic in your body is an excellent challenge. And considering I have been in intensive dance training for the last two and a half months, I believe my lack of aches and pains and injury is down to Gaga.

I have so far had three really memorable Gaga classes. The first was my first class with one of my favourite Gaga teachers, Aya Israeli, former rehearsal director for Batsheva Dance Company. I came out of this first class feeling as though I was Moses who had just finished his 40-year travel in the desert: I felt free, exuberated and spiritually awake. My second was with Aya again - she is such an inspiration with her energy, charm and talent - where we finished with the whole class really connecting to their own and the class groove, to an upbeat house dance track. At the end of the lesson we were all buzzing so much we stayed much after the class dancing around the room: we all had connected to our passion to move. My third was with my second-favourite Gaga teacher, Yaniv Abraham. He pushes you way past your strength, flexibility and stamina limits and reminds you to “connect your pain to pleasure”. In one class with Yaniv I found that when I was exhausted, I connected my pain to forcing myself to enjoy the “burn” and bam! I found I could go further than I could have ever before. I have never sweated so much in my life - and I’ve done the London Marathon, so that’s saying something!

Some of you as readers now might be reading this information about Gaga and be thinking “oooh it’s not my cup of tea” (I had to put that in as I’m constantly being mocked for my Britishness here in Israel) but trust me, the “pre-gaga” me would have thought the same. Watch Batsheva Dance Company in action (see below), and you will see how these dancers have such a distinctive quality of moving, as if they have an animal “brewing” up on the inside which darts out at unexpected moments. Also, the dancers appear as though every muscle fibre has the power of a lion but the softness of a feather - and this is down to the daily Gaga classes that the dancers take. Dancers from all around the world are storming Tel Aviv’s Suzanne Dellal Centre (The Sadler’s Wells of Israel) to take one of the daily Gaga classes on offer.

So that’s a quick overview of one of the main reasons for why I am here in Israel. Ever since I first saw Batsheva Dance Company in 2008, I've  wanted to move with the fierce and explosive nature of Batsheva Dancers. Also, I'm a big lover of Israel and I am very blessed to be mixing my huge passions in life: dance and Israel. Furthermore, after being a full-time-and-more dance teacher, I felt I needed a career break to find fresh ideas and rebuild my technique.

In Israel’s past, the dancers of the 1930s travelled to Europe to study Expressionist dance techniques, the Israeli dancers of the 1960s travelled to New York to study modern dance styles. Now, the whole world is travelling to Israel to study here and get into companies like Batsheva Dance Company, Batsheva Ensemble (Batsheva’s younger company) or Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company, which boasted over 400 applicants to their latest auditions. Also, the UK’s strongest current talents boast Israeli: Hofesh Shechter (a former dancer with Batsheva Dance Company) and Jasmin Vardimon (a former dancer with Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company).

So here I am at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance studying a year of dance with two amazing intensive courses.

Please go and check out Batsheva Ensemble to see Ohad Naharin’s Deca Dance on tour. Deca Dance is a collection of sections from many of Naharin’s work, so you will Naharin’s choreography at his best: powerful, explosive and soul grabbing! You can catch them at Sadler’s Wells 19th to 21st November: tickets are still available from www.sadlerswells.com/show/Batsheva-Ensemble-Deca-Dance

 


[embed=videolink]{"video":"http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A6RWvh0JMv8","width":"400","height":"300"}[/embed]

 

Add a comment

Arthur Pita: God’s Garden

With a slap of a young woman’s foot on wood and an elbow jabbed to the sky, Arthur Pita’s God’s Garden bursts out of Eden and surges into an earthy mix of sin, jealousy and revenge. Set in Madeira in a suburban back garden, the piece is a take on the parable ‘The Prodigal Son’, following the narrative of a vengeful jilted bride and runaway groom. Traditional Portuguese folk dance is mixed with grounded, angular contemporary movement and satirical interpretations of typical flouncy love duets. Sprinkled with Portuguese text and song the piece is like watching a foreign film, with an ambiguity that leaves the audience with intrigue and uncertainty.   

However, the pain and empowerment of women is the real subject of this story. Three women represent iconic stages in female life: a Bride (Helen Auschauer), a Grandmother (Dianne Payne-Myers), and a young woman yearning for a child (Scarlett Perdereau). They each long for what they have not got (a husband, a baby and youth), yet the three have unique strengths in overcoming their problems. The Bride has the power of revenge, standing directly on-top of her Groom’s foetal body. The Sister has an almost demonic command where in scenes of devilish rage she stops time with her arms spread wide, looking to the heavens. The Grandmother, on the other hand, shows great strength through her extravagant solo of high kicks and splits, an astounding feat for an 84 year old woman.

What is most striking about the piece is the attention to detail. Providing a lesson in choreographic timing and wit, no stone is left unturned for Pita. If a shovel hits the ground, earth is placed beneath it; when the two women of the house wash the Son (Nuno Queimado), every of his body is covered; he even stands on his head so they can reach his feet. Pita has a knack for comic timing and quirky additions. In one such moment, Payne-Myers maps out her grave with the help of the Father (Michael Small) and her walking stick. Manipulating Payne-Myers's body with the stick to drag, lift and shuffle her into the right position (arms crossed across her chest), when Small is finally done, he hands her a shovel and she begins to dig.

In the penultimate night of their revival tour in Birmingham’s Patrick Centre, this diverse cast provided a meticulous, intriguing and surprising performance. Pita’s uniquely idiosyncratic approach creates a fresh look on this well-known parable in black comedy style. Nevertheless, the real charm of the piece is in the dysfunctional family dynamic, which through its oddities seems uncannily familiar.
 

Add a comment

Rosas: Cesena

Cesena starts with a very sudden blackout. A single dim light beams onto the bare stage revealing hints of a large circle made out of salt or sand. The audience is thrown straight into the middle of the night for a journey through to daybreak.

As the audience’s eyes are still getting use to the low light, silence is broken by frantic movement noises of a naked performer running around then stopping, facing the audience at the edge of the stage to sing, a cappella, a piercing wholesome song which fills the air like a thick fog. He then disappears to let the other eighteen performers move in a tight and jerky rhythm up and down the stage and through the circle, almost taking ownership of it.

A wonderful obscurity lets the entrancing voices of early music-inspired vocal group grainedelavoix penetrate the audience as we are asked to second-guess the movement taking place on stage. The nineteen bodies on stage move and sing with acute precision as the performance develops from obscurity to daybreak in a realistic timeframe of nearly two hours. The 14th century Ars Subitor (A More Subtle Art) score presents a series of intricate and complex songs where voices intertwine in a wonderful chaotic harmony essential to the atmosphere created.

As the ‘day breaks’, the stage becomes more visible and we see it completely bare in all directions. It doesn’t resemble a theatre space; rather, it seems like site chosen specifically for this performance. This also means that the performers have nowhere to hide, nowhere to rest which, in turn, demands the same from the audience.

The early music style is embodied by the choreography and many sequences feel like expressions of laments. Dancers and singers form one wholesome body which evolves in varying shapes and expressions. Dancers sing and singers dance throughout, giving the performance an incredible integrity and plunging the audience in a total immersion.   

Cesena seems completely self-sufficient whilst gripping the audience in a sort of trance. Never does the audience feel fully part of the performance, but the intensity of the voices and movements holds a tension which makes us unable to think of anything else. Audience engagement is embodied through our core whilst we feel completely irrelevant to the events onstage. This unfamiliar experience really gives a sort of distant intimacy, almost as if a passive soul could watch its body from afar.

This is a highly immersive and demanding journey from dusk to daybreak made out of a wonderful marriage of choreography and songs which fill the audience with resonance. De Keersmaeker challenges her cast, stretching them to the very edge of their ability and her audience to keep up with events happening onstage. It is a hard challenge of stamina and concentration which, if overcome, leaves the audience drained of emotion as we witness a sublime moment of this wonderful time of the night (and day) stolen from our otherwise busy and disconnected lives.
 

Add a comment

Rosas: En Atendant

Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s work En Atendant is a mindful, peaceful, and simple work where each movement is a resonating hum in accord with her conceptual decisions. Consistently inspired by music, Keersmaeker has in previous works played with music by The Beatles, Mahler, Coltrane, and Reich, but in En Atendant, Keersmaeker has moved further back in history, to the late 14th Century, a musical period known as Ars Subtilior, a polyphonic form based on dissonance and contrast.

True to form, Keersmaeker has used these complex musical forms to create a choreographic language that is both pedestrian and rich in abstraction. Though her development process is exacting and articulate, the end result is as meditative as the musical score, movement concurrently growing and receding with the ebb and flow of the music, led and abandoned by live performers on stage. Neither music or dance creates an entire piece, but there are stages within the work where one element overlaps and diminishes another. Neither is dominant, yet both are equally responsible for the propulsion behind the work.

In its initial incarnation, the work took place outdoors at dusk, in the courtyard of a monastery. The stage as Sadler's Wells has been well-manipulated to form a similar impression, the light fading to the back of the stage, the floor stripped bare, and a single rustic wooden bench for the musicians. The dancers, clothed in simple blacks, move with a solemn grace which exemplifies the exactingness of the movement.

The most physically exciting part of the work occurs when a line of dancers “explode” into simultaneous movement, forming trios and pairs, interlinking, shifting and moving through one another and the space. Individuality amongst the group, but not enough to break it is a fragile yet effective visual delight.

To create a piece which is calming and sophisticated, yet not boring, is a difficult line to create. Keersmaeker can teeter on the edge, but perseverance and understanding are well rewarded, for when you yourself become quieter, enjoying the movement and musical vocabulary that this choreographer can offer, an enticing and mysterious world await to be experienced.
 

Add a comment

Royal Ballet: Viscera, Infra & Fool's Paradise

Whispers titillate the Floral Hall that tonight's Triple Bill is a sign of things to come. A decade under the helm of Dame Monica Mason and the masses are expecting something different from newly-crowned Artistic Director Kevin O'Hare. Despite being dubbed a "practical" choice by some, it is worth noting that this evening's triple performance is entirely contemporary: not a MacMillan in sight. Which doesn't seem *so* practical, does it? It is also no coincidence that the Royal Ballet's first ever artist in residence kicks off the night.

The name on everyone's lips tonight is Liam Scarlett and many are asking the inevitable: Is this O'Hare's McGregor? The answer is, not quite yet. Liam himself has described Viscera, created a year ago for Miami City Ballet, as 'plotless', and this self-confessed evaluation rings true tonight. Whilst Viscera promises a great deal from Royal Ballet's new resident, Scarlett is yet to punch his mark and find his voice. But let's start with the positives: polished, elegant and beautifully-lit, theatrical plum-dyed flamenco flourishes show the depth of Scarlett's originality - when he trusts in instinct. Which is the crux of this new work: when Liam hits his stride, the tenderness and intimacy he ignites between his dancers show the depth of passion within. A feline stroke of Marianela Nuñez's face against Ryoichi Hirano's arch is all that it takes. It is unfortunate, then, that these brief moments are overwritten by formulaic group dances that lack his own stamp and a sense of direction and purpose.

Whereas Scarlett's Viscera is strangely absent, the return of Wayne McGregor's Infra is gut-wrenchingly present, slicing through the austerity mist. The ecstasy of Infra sparks with every slight nuance: that flick of Eric Underwood's foot, as if looking for trodden chewing gum on the sole. Day-to-day drudgery and despair is captured, warts and all. Principal dancers are scanned like a value-pack of baked beans. The wasteland of the soul cries out against a factory line of anonymous commuters. Edward Watson jogs backward offstage, as if being rewound, paused and played again at normal speed. And there is that beautiful pas-de-deux, as Underwood cradles Melissa Hamilton in spite of the chaos. Each dancer is on their own journey, and yet the piece is fused together by a collective desire. That desire for hope when all seems lost. Infra is surely McGregor's masterpiece.

And so we are left with Christopher Wheeldon's Fool's Paradise, a visually-soothing work which dreamily glides yet fails to awaken. Underwhelming is never something one associates with Wheeldon, and yet the faultless beauty of both the golden light and Joby Talbot's emotive score leaves us wanting something more from his nine dancers, including Sarah Lamb, Federico Bonelli, Melissa Hamilton, Edward Watson and Steven McRae. That said, it is a lovely piece to watch, and when the cinematic confetti falls, the haunting imagery of Sam Mendes' American Beauty is evoked.

As the night draws to a close, the real name on everyone's lips is Kevin O'Hare. Proving himself capable of injecting the Opera House with a new lease of modernity, tonight has invested in contemporary choreographic talent and demonsted an uncompromising commitment to showcasing it, warts and all. Long may it continue...

 

Add a comment

Russell Maliphant: The Rodin Project

The curtain at Sadlers Wells opens on Russell Maliphant's opening night of The Rodin Project to reveal a set sumptuously dressed in flowing white linen, warmly lit, to the enchanting sound of Alexander Zekke's strings.

The opening serves as a good indication of what is to come, as we are gradually introduced to Maliphant's six dancers in a tumble of fluid limbs and ever-changing levels and planes. The loin cloth-like costumes and clear definition of male / female gender roles suggest a celebration of the human form, as of course does much of Rodin's sculptural work, and these dancers' bodies serve them well. Pedestrian, carefully-placed exchanges build to become emotive duets, including one of note between Tommy Franzén and Jennifer White. The execution of the movement is languidly engaging, and through a steady flow of gradually-building energy and sound, the audience are invited to observe, not bombarded or harassed in any way.

In the programme, Maliphant discusses how the process involved in this project has been an ongoing one, and the dancers' continuing exploration of their subject matter is evident. Throughout the work there is a sense of introspection, of the performers describing something unseen.

As the energy continues to build, but the light, soft quality - a result of the floor also being linen-clad - remains, the work started to become a little self-indulgent. That being said, as the (at times contrived) relationship between sound and movement continued to develop, and momentum built, the first half ended, inexplicably and abruptly, leaving the audience wanting more.

And more we were granted, as the second act revealed the set now stripped bare, a stark playground of slanting platforms and walls, the undulating use of which gave a sense of there being many more performers than just the six.

With the dancers now in sportswear, the movement material became more abstract, isolated, animalistic and almost tribal; the influence of popping and locking styles within the choreography, specialities of dancers Dickson Mbi and Franzén, becoming increasingly evident.

In this somewhat disjointed second act, we see a mixture of short female solos, rare but well-placed unison, and a pensive and beautiful duet on a wall by Franzén and Mbi.

In another scene, the female soloists, Staton and White, are nude, bringing a sense of vulnerability and subtle provocation to the work. These moments, demonstrating yet more lighting triumphs by Michael Hulls are satisfyingly non-gratuitous.

There were more than a couple of moments which seemed to bring about a conclusion to the piece, but on it went, building in vigour, including a strobing section reminiscent of a sportswear advert, and gradually, increasingly acknowledging the audience with a more outward focus.

The sliding minor chords of the soundscape form an absorbing cohesion with the sliding sinuous bodies that we see, and the work ends with a sense of satisfaction. The earth did not move, but an absorbing ninety minutes were spent watching six incredible performers do what they do best.
 

Add a comment