reviews


Grey Matter – Choreography: Benoit Swan Pouffer

There was a lot of drama in this piece, from the striking white sheer costumes with splatters of blood-like red, to the beating bass of the music by GAIKA. The dancers appeared almost animalistic, and there was certainly an undercurrent of threat throughout the piece. There was a constant shifting between fluidity – the dancers writhing in a serpentine manner – and violence at other points, as they crept on tiptoe as if stalking prey.
Some strong characters broke away from the crowd, with some sense of narrative through the piece, but overall there was a sense of anonymity, without a huge amount of interaction between the dancers. This sometimes gave a strong vision of a faceless crowd with some individuals trying to escape; but at other times, the stage felt a little too ‘busy’ and it wasn’t always easy to follow the direction of the piece. However it was certainly an engaging start to the evening, and the edginess of the choreography was matched by the lighting, soundtrack and costumes, so it felt like a cohesive world. (more…)

Advertisements

Moon Dances – Jann Esterhuizen Company

This was an elegant start to the evening, with poise and delicacy at its core. The piece started slowly, with the contemporary soundtrack drawing the audience into the performance even as the lights were still up, and gradually bringing us into the world on stage as the room darkened.
The choreography was based on very classical shapes and forms, with a lot of use of the diagonal lines of the stage, and many moments being recognisably ‘balletic’, but it pushed gently at the boundaries of traditional ballet, moving out of the confines of these lines and using the body in more organic ways.
The dancers each seemed to be mostly self-contained – there wasn’t a great deal of interaction between them; rather they all seemed to be in their own separate worlds of movement.
The piece as a whole didn’t take huge risks; there was still a lot of familiar ground in the soundtrack of piano and strings (particularly with sections of Bach’s solo cello suites), and the roots of ballet in the choreography. But the fact that it was clean and not particularly gritty didn’t detract – it was a balanced and beautiful performance in all areas: choreography, performance and soundtrack.

EVA – Joe Lott Dance

In contrast to the previous piece, this had a strong sense of narrative, with spoken word as a prominent part of the performance. At the start this took the form of a performer on stage who spoke to the audience, and later on there were extracts of speech from NASA space missions as part of the soundtrack.
This provided a great sense of direction and clarity to the piece, and there were moments of perfect balance where the choreography directly matched the narration’s content. Initially this took the form of small movements which ‘acted out’ the things being narrated (for example particular actions like sowing seeds). Later on it was even more striking, as two dancers moved in unison on the floor, slowly oscillating and remoulding the shapes of their bodies as the soundtrack described movement in space. There was a real quality of weightlessness and floating – it was easy to imagine that the dancers were outside the Earth’s gravity.
I did find it easier to take in the narration from a soundtrack than the spoken delivery on stage – perhaps because this broke away from the traditional silence of dance performers. But it was certainly an absorbing performance with some real innovation of choreography.

Still Touch – Richard Chappell Dance

This was an exceptionally strong finish to the evening, with innovation and talent on show right from the first moment. The subject matter encompassed the nature of human touch and connection, and this was explored through four ‘characters’ – three dancers and a sculpted figure. This inert figure could so easily have been used in a gimmicky way, but on the contrary it was done in a way both empathetic and unabashed. The work didn’t shy away from the raw loneliness of the lack of connection to others, or the tenderness and joy of human interaction, but also showed many tones between these two extremes, connecting all three dancers and the sculpture rather than keeping them apart in separate pairs.

The soundtrack, too, was inventive and layered, and matched the emotive drive of the piece – at some points dramatic and dark, and at others almost completely still.
The choreography felt inherently organic, each movement flowing from the last, feeling almost improvised, and yet inventive and very much outside the boundaries of ‘classical’ dance. There was also no sense of gender difference between the male and female dancers. Rather than feeling one was watching a performance, it was more like looking in on an intimate world, at times troubled but ultimately beautiful.

Jess Ryan-Phillips

17th March 2019

Mixtape, by contemporary flamenco company Dotdotdot Dance, is a performance of four works: three dances, and a song by Lole y Manuel. Of the dances, the second, Alhelí la fea, was closest to traditional flamenco, being a ‘structured improvisation’ in which dancer Magdalena Mannion and singer Elena Morales responded to each other. Dressed in black, they stood close against the red brick of the back wall of the stage, interpreting the theme drawn from popular verse, ‘I’m like that old piece of furniture left against the wall’. (more…)

Carlos Acosta’s recent production of Don Quixote for the Royal Ballet is full of energy, sparkle and exhilarating dancing. Even though it is from the classic Marius Petipa tradition, I didn’t know this ballet and wasn’t sure what to expect. How do you ‘balletise’ Cervantes’ 17th Century blockbuster? In some ways it is a bit like Le Corsaire with flamenco and gypsies instead of pirates: the thinnest of plots, but huge fun and an excuse for some great dancing. (more…)

ABOUT US is a remarkable embodiment of ordinary human experience that reveals the universal through the personal, and places dance firmly in the political sphere. Jacky Lansley is a dancer and choreographer, who uses sound, music, lighting, film and narrative to convey layers of meaning collaboratively, and she began working of this piece in the aftermath of the Referendum on membership of the European Union.

As we entered the gallery, and sat on the chairs arranged around three walls (the fourth was used for projection), we realised that the performers were already among us, intent and focussed, drawing us into their world, which is also ours. (more…)

Richard Alston Dance Company opened their show at the New Theatre, Oxford with Martin Lawrance’s energetic and fast paced creation Detour, which was followed by six pieces by Alston himself. Lawrance leaves interpretation to the audience: according to the programme, he named his piece because he started with one idea, which changed as he worked, but he leaves it to the dance to reveal what those ideas were. Performed to a recorded marimba and percussion soundtrack, its zippy pirouettes and sharp split jetés interspersed with leaps into dramatic embraces displayed the company’s virtuosity, while suggesting an underlying theme of conflict.

Richard Alston’s own programme notes offer more clues to the thoughts, images, and circumstances that lie behind his dances. (more…)

Rick Guest’s stunningly beautiful photographs of Edward Watson vividly illustrate the impact on twenty-first century dance aesthetics of our renewed interest in the male body. On Friday night, in a conversation expertly chaired by dance critic Sarah Crompton as part of the National Portrait Gallery’s Friday Lates talks series, Guest described how he first came to photograph Watson as the result of a commission for The Economist’s Intelligent Life magazine. He was initially taken aback by how slight Watson seemed in rather flat light, then a sudden shaft illuminated Watson’s face, giving him the photograph he needed, and Watson the impetus to project his personality in response to the camera. (more…)

Next Page »