By Rachel Gildea

Like a snake charmed from its basket, the first movements of Okan Nijo saw a dancer awaken from a crouch on the floor. As he unravelled and rose higher, his muscular torso pulsed to the energy from the live drums. Six dancers powerfully expressed idea of growth. While their well-spaced feet rooted them to the earth, their wide eyes resembled an infant’s and their shaky arms reached out as if to take something from the void.

Lawal’s exploration included a look at dance throughout diverse cultures. The company maintains a vital link with African dance but their flex-footed arabesques and weighty rolls evoked contemporary dance and elaborate hand gestures where fingers opened up flowers suggested Kathak’s ‘hastas’.

However, where there is growth and aspiration, there is also decay and degeneration. The third piece, Respite highlighted a frightening truth about all human life. The music discordant; harmony was lost to frenzy. Robbed of their deep focus, the dancers looked down, suggesting blindness and self-absorption. The reaching motif was repeated but this time the dancers were grabbing desperately at the air, but falling; missing it. Uprooted, they moved like puppets: limp-limbed, shaking; this time from madness. This was resolved by Sakoba’s new dawn: a flute played like birdsong, the lights shone sunrise-red and the dancers pulsed their torsos as before showing something of the continuity of life, the presence of hope and energy in the hardest times.

Sakoba Dance Company – Respite (Pegasus Theatre, Friday 6th March 2009)