Dance Review: Vollmond @ Sadler’s Wells

One of the undoubted highlights of last summer’s Cultural Olympiad (the Olympic celebration for people who weren’t watching the Olympics) was Tanztheater Wuppertal’s month-long World Cities residency at Sadler’s Wells and the Barbican Centre. Long-term Pinaphiles and new viewers alike were indulged with ten astonishing works inspired by the international wanderings of the late Pina Bausch and her company, and such was the appetite for Bausch that Sadler’s Wells has decided to host two shows from the company annually. Vollmond (Full Moon) is the second of this year’s offerings.

Last week’s Two Cigarettes In The Dark, from 1985, showed Bausch’s penchant for exposing the cruelties of everyday life with bleak, absurdist humour. Vollmond (2006) has more in common with the later World Cities pieces; bizarre and apparently random things still take place on stage, but they’re couched in a kind of ecstatic beauty rather than humiliation and degradation. The women – gorgeously clothed, as ever, by designer Marion Cito – appear sexually confident and far more in control of their destinies than their sisters in earlier works.  There are kisses, all-consuming embraces, and a masterclass in bra-management from dancer Azusa Seyama. The men appear desperate to please, hoping for a touch or kiss; the women strut among them like goddesses, occasionally pausing to sit on a proffered man-chair.

Like other later Bausch works, Vollmond is largely structured around solos for each of the cast. Silvia Farias Heredia whirls around the stage with luscious circling sweeps of the leg; the tiny Ditta Miranda Jasjfi adds rocking arms and buoyant leaps. Gradually, thanks to a concealed trough of water at the rear of the stage, the cast become wetter and wetter; the womens’ long hair whips through the air and the men glide across the stage on dampened socks. When the stage finally erupts in a downpour to put Gene Kelly’s to shame, the cast descend en mass to dance with primal joy, swimming offstage again in their fabulous frocks. There is comparatively little ensemble work in this piece; in as much as it’s about anything, Vollmond seems to deal with the individual ways in which we experience life, love and taking the emotional plunge.

Bausch’s works – whether the starker, emotionally-charged pieces of her youth or her more peaceful, uplifting later output – always have the capacity to transport their audiences to a strange, sometimes unsettling, often mesmerising place. Vollmond certainly takes its audience on a sensual journey; even when it’s pouring with rain, Pinaland is a captivating place to visit.

Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch Vollmond
Sadler’s Wells, EC1R 4TN 22-24 February 2013

Originally published at

Dance Review: Resolution! – penny & jules dance, Wayne Parsons, Botis Seva/Far From the Norm – The Place

Wayne Parsons 'Meeting' Photo: Rachel Cherry

The Resolution! juggernaut trundles ever onwards, and Saturday brought us the 58th, 59th and 60th pieces in this year’s festival.Virtual selves, unreliable narrators and personal discovery were the themes for this evening’s largely movement-based programme.An unusual request to leave our mobile phones on, the better to Tweet along to the performance, marked the opening of penny & jules dance’s #Factory. Unlike recent works such as Luca Silvestrini’s LOL, which examine the use of social media to connect and (mis)communicate, #Factory takes as its premise the interesting possibility that social media sites allow us the possibility to create alternative online personas, second selves in the virtual space.Lisa Gillam and Kate Szkolar’s movement material has a pleasing liquid quality, combining melting spirals to the floor with intricate head details and hands scurrying across the floor.

Unfortunately, not a lot of this agreeable material has much to do with virtual identity. A solo dancer, duetting with a projection of herself shifting and rolling across the back of the stage has the most obvious connection with the idea of a second self; Javascript commands play across the screen behind the dancers, but there’s nothing in the choreography that really pulls these ideas together. The audience participation element is, sadly, confined to a screening of a Twitter feed in the bar afterwards. It’s a shame to see a potentially strong idea unconvincingly executed.

Altogether more assured was Wayne Parsons’ duet with Katie Lusby. A vision of a story that changes with each retelling, Meeting shows snatches of conversation repeated over and over, with intricate and humorous changes to the detail each time. Parson’s universal gesture for “it was this big” changes in scale each time it appears; Lusby seems to find herself facing the wrong direction for the narrative more than once, and little gestures pop up again and again in differing configurations. The form of a movement theme with variations is tried and tested, but here it works exquisitely well with fine performances from both dancers and a great connection between performers and audience.

Hiphop dance has done much in the past decade to shake off hackneyed expectations of exuberant performance to a pounding beat performed by a crew of dancers in hoodies. Artists such as Jonzi D and Place resident Tony Adigun have explored the dramatic and expressive potential of the form, retaining the physical techniques but using these to illustrate much deeper subjects than battling and partying. Along the way, however, Hiphop theatre seems to have picked up a new set of tropes which run the risk of becoming just as clichéd as the hoodies and big beats.

Botis Seva is a talented young dancer who has performed with both Avant Garde Dance and Hakeem Onibudo’s Impact Dance. The influence of these two Hiphop theatre companies on both material and setting is evident in Place In Between. Our performer stands half-naked (no doubt symbolising personal vulnerability) picked out by dim streaks of light (suggesting emotional darkness) with his back toward us (hinting at an inability to face the world). He then moves, at a glacial pace, from one side of the paper-strewn stage to the other. The pace is butoh-like, the stance animalistic, with Seva’s torso hunched over and fists swinging close to the floor.

Gradually, over the course of a long 25 minutes, Seva works himself up through intermittent twitches into a frenzy of pulsing, spine almost dislocating as it jerks back and forth. There’s great physical skill to Seva’s performance, but all of this soundless fury ends up signifying nothing as we struggle to find a root for the trembling horror. The line between profound self-expression and pretentious angst is a fine one, and Place In Between strays over it.

Resolution! 2013 continues at The Place until 15 February [not Sundays or Mondays]

Originally posted at