Wendy Whelan’s programme Restless Creature, on view at the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Studio Theatre last week, was a remarkable feat, consisting of four duets all danced by Whelan herself partnered in each work by its own choreographer.

In Ego et Tu we saw Alejandro Cerrudo, centre stage, lit by a pool of light as he spiralled and criss-crossed an invisible but almost palpable central line. Then he moved upstage and was miraculously replaced by Whelan emerging from the darkness, before they danced together using intricate lifts in which he held her away from his body, and barely seemed to touch her.

Joshua Beamish’s Waltz Epoca started well with classical ballet steps unexpectedly subverted by shifts of weight, promising real interest, but although it was beautifully danced I felt it ran out of ideas early on.

The Serpent and the Smoke by Kyle Abraham opened with an ominous orange light glowing to stage right where Abraham lurked, a sinister writhing figure. Dramatic and atmospheric, the dancers moved simultaneously yet separately, confronting each other. The image that stays with me is of Whelan seeming to subdue a powerful and threatening beast, resting her hand on his shoulder as he prowled beside her.

Brian BrooksFirst Fall saw Whelan in a yellow dress hovering in the air again and again before falling forwards and backwards, supported by her partner yet fully in control. At one point, resting on his crouching back, she travelled across the stage leaning forward, her legs seeming to run in slow motion.

Whelan herself was the star of the evening. A very American dancer, with her strength, expansive movement and abstraction; even when she reached the end of a movement, she continue to grow. Exceptionally supple with wonderful extensions, she was supremely elegant but cool, until the very last moment when she seemed to light up and thaw to accept applause with warmth.

Maggie Watson

30 July 2014

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