London Contemporary Dance School’s postgraduate company, EDge, offered a rather volatile night of dance watching. These little sticks of dynamite (aka dancers) can move with precision and speed, showcasing works by Sasha Waltz, James Wilton, Matthias Sperling, Rachel Lopez de Nieta and Tony Adigun. While the array of material in this dance programme was intriguing, there were small amounts of dislocation, yet the overall coherency of the night made for an enjoyable evening.
The first work was a restaging of Sasha Waltz’s earlier work String Quartet Nr. 1, originally created as part of a dance installation for the Neues Museum in Berlin. It was a very formal piece to begin the night with, and those used to current contemporary dance might be taken aback a little as a string quartet led this sextet of dancers on a lively but fragmented chase around the stage. In simple and colourful costumes, the dancers began the work with incremental broken movements, snapping back into position like a wooden children’s toy. The dancers possessed a surreal quality, lacking the fluidity that makes them human; their movements shifted them closer to the sharper sounds of the string instruments.
A curious development occurred when the dancers positioned themselves around the musicians and slowly relocated them (whilst they played) into the centre of the room. This visual shift was also a conceptual one, the focus of the piece turning toward the music itself. Albeit interesting, this seemed to be too much of a focus shift which left the dancers lying on the ground twitching intermittently with little visual interest.
The second piece, Through Shards by James Wilton, was much more steely than the first, beginning with a duet of dancers bounding out of the smoke. Reactive and volatile, this duet set the tone of what was to come: a strong, grounded work bringing a magnetic and forceful quality to the dancers. Duets and trios peppered the work, leaning, collapsing and creating a vivid cause and effect. The patterns created were simple, yet harboured a complexity which made this piece very visually interesting.
The interval shook up the audience to excite them for the unexpected nature of Matthias Sperling’s Dances With Purpose. The mention of “folk dance” in the programme notes implied something unerringly traditional and usurping the cultural ideology of the dance. This, I’m pleased to say, was not the case. The dancers were clearly enjoying themselves, wearing traditional costumes (universal black curly wigs included), bells, and waving a plethora of objects, from musical instruments to swords. Sperling’s work focused on the effect of cultural dance on an audience, and to that end he offered the joviality and inclusive nature of such a dance in all its glory. It may have been a little difficult to keep up the energy of this piece, but the concept and realization could inspire a love/hate reaction in the audience. Teetering on the edge of playful and monotonous, this work injected something just a little different into the night.
The two final works, Rite for Richard and Unleashed were both tributes to Richard Alston’s Wildlife, originally commissioned for last year's Dance Umbrella. Performed consecutively, they conveyed a contrasting interpretation of this 1986 work, one theatrical, another physically stirring.
Rite for Richard, choreographed by Rachel Lopez de la Nieta, began with a lone “bird” sitting bound on a chair in the corner of the room, dolled up in a sequinned dress, earrings and heavy makeup. This dancer created the pivot point for the other four who observed, reacted to and danced with this creature. De la Nieta’s observations and personal reactions to this documentary were astute, and there was plenty of artistic merit in the work, albeit lacking in the dance department. With a soundscape mixed by Jules Maxwell to include voiceovers and music from this film, there was an eclectic mix of stimuli which created a strong layer to the work.
Tony Adigun’s Unleashed was radically different to its predecessor. This work, at times, felt like a martial arts ground: the dancers whipped around, moved and interacted with an astute sense of one another and the space they occupied. Mimicking some of the textures in the earlier Wilton piece, invariably the strength of these dancers was shown off to great effect, even if their smiles weren’t. The costumes created an intriguing severity which was reflected in the movement style, and these whirlwinds of movement were certainly captivating to watch.
All in all, this was a stylistically absorbing night. Flipped through different physical textures, various facets of these dancers were dually explored, and the works, though quick, offered a glimpse into the technical capacity of these talented graduates.