Poetry In Motion: Russell Maliphant And Sylvie Guillem In PUSH

Sylvie Guillem and Russell Maliphant in PUSH

When PUSH, a triple-showcase for the talents of choreographer Russell Maliphant, dancerSylvie Guillem and lighting designer Michael Hulls, premiered in 2005 it was praised for both the mesmerising beauty of the dance material and the beguiling performances of its two stars. In the intervening nine years, the programme of three solos and an extended duet has lost none of its stirring beauty, and both performers look as fresh as ever on stage. If anything, the final duet has even improved over time.

The evening begins with Solo, a short piece for Guillem set to the music of Carlos Montoya. Lusciously backlit in what looks like a pair of extremely stylish, diaphanous pajamas, Guillem glides about the stage with casual flicks of the leg up to her ears to highlight the rhythmic details in the music. Shift, a solo for Maliphant, finds the choreographer dancing ingeniously with his own shadow, tai-chi inspired movements softly unfolding across the stage as silhouetted versions of himself flit across the back screen. A simple idea, near-flawlessly executed, Shift is a fine example of what makes Maliphant such an endlessly fascinating choreographer, and his supple performance is engrossing to watch.

Two, a solo originally created for Malipant’s wife Dana Fouras, gets out and about relatively often; versions of the piece were shown last year as part of the Liang/Maliphant/Wheeldon triple bill and then again last month in Still Current. Guillem’s interpretation of the piece however is second to none; her absolute clarity and command are electrifying.

Push brings the two together in a weight-sharing duet of absolute trust. Guillem rolls down and across Maliphant’s body; she arches back from his shoulders in softly cantilevered falls; he pulls her up from the ground into lifts that seem to simply overlook the laws of gravity. There’s a lovely effortless quality to the movement that springs from a deep connection and chemistry between the two performers. Although there is no narrative as such, Push speaks of intimacy with a lyrical eloquence that the athletic, showy choreography of much modern work lacks.

These are the final-ever performances of the programme; lovers of contemporary dance will not want to miss out on this last opportunity to see two sublime performers at work.

Originally published at www.londonist.com

Lightness And Longing In Sadler’s Wells

One of the world’s most successful touring companies, Nederlands Dance Theatre has built up an ecstatic following in Europe over the last fifty years, but performs relatively rarely in London.  This repertory double-bill celebrates the work of Artistic Director Paul Lightfoot with his long-term choreographic partner, Sol León.It might be said that forty-odd extant Lightfoot-León works share something of a characteristic template: a large and active set that often becomes part of the stage action; a distinctive use of facial gesture; a single figure on the forestage in a state of partial nudity. Certainly the evening’s opener Sehnsucht (“longing”) nods to each of these conventions in turn; our partially-dressed soloist for the evening is the gaunt, sinewy Silas Henriksen.Behind him, in a revolving box spotted with furniture, Medhi Walerski and Parvaneh Scharafali slump across a table. Each dances tense, yearning phrases, like cinematic voice-overs hinting at the characters’ inner turmoil. The room rotates around them, leaving Walerski swinging from a dining chair or Scharafali rolling across a wall that becomes a ceiling. They exit, surprisingly, feet-first through the window. Gorgeously danced (of course) to luscious extracts of Beethoven’s piano works, Sehnsucht is an effective mood piece with innovative moments that later erupts into an exuberant ensemble, the whole company leaping bare-breasted in unison.

Schmetterling (“Butterfly”) is a less pensive, more joyful affair, a collection of short sequences performed to The Magnetic Fields’ quirky 69 Love Songs. With its jukebox soundtrack and playful choreography, Schmetterling could be viewed as a country cousin of Rambert’s recently-toured Rooster; this being NDT, however, there’s an undercurrent of deviant sexuality that Christopher Bruce could never stage. Legs whip around torsos and yawn into welcoming straddles; dancers shrug one another on and off like so many changes of clothes; and there’s just a little light BDSM in the mix. This isn’t cute-sexy like Bruce or elegant-sexy like Balanchine; this is rough-and-dirty-sexy, the dance equivalent of a swift seeing-to at the back of an Amsterdam nightclub, and so much the more fun for that.

Originally published at www.londonist.com

8 Facts About India That Might Surprise You

Shopkeeper in India

1. India is BIG

India is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. Reaching almost 2,000 miles from Kashmir in the north to Tamil Nadu in the south, and a similar distance from east to west, the sheer scale of India means it is very unlikely you’ll be able to experience the whole country in just one trip. It’s best to select two or three key regional hubs (for example Mumbai, Panjim and Bangalore in the south, or Kolkata, Darjeeling and Lucknow in the north-east) and give yourself plenty of time to travel between locations — you can always return if you want to see more.

2. There are 22 official languages

Along with its physical size, India is renowned for its regional diversity — in language, culture, food and architecture. That diversity makes the country endlessly fascinating, even to those who have visited before — but it can make trying to learn the local lingo more challenging than usual for travellers who like to pick up a few phrases. Make sure you check the local language before you leave (Hindi won’t get you far in the south) and pick up an appropriate phrasebook or two.

3. There’s more to Indian cuisine than Chicken Tikka Masala

A trip to India will acquaint you with dozens of delicious dishes that aren’t easily found in the UK. Up in the hills you’ll find delicate steamed dum pukht slow-cooked in a sealed pot over a low fire; simply-cooked fresh fish in Kerala and Goa; and scrumptious masala dosa all over the south. One of the best ways to experience Indian cooking, especially if you’re spectacularly hungry, is an all-you-can-eat thali — a huge pile of rice served with several different kinds of curry and vegetable, topped up whenever your plate looks empty. Hard to beat for taste and value, the best are found at roadside cafes and served on a fresh green banana leaf.

4. Kolkata is a great city to visit

Kolkata (previously known as Calcutta) was for many years associated with poverty and overpopulation, particularly following India’s war with neighbouring Bangladesh in the early 1970s. In the last quarter of a century, however, Kolkata has seen profound economic and infrastructure development, and today is a beautiful and fascinating city rich with history and culture. Don’t be afraid to visit — and don’t limit yourself to the tourist centre of Sudder Street, either. Kolkata has much more to offer than backpacker hostels, and it’s a great place to begin a mountain trekking holiday in West Bengal.

5. You won’t be able to find a decent cup of tea

For a country that produces a quarter of the world’s tea, India as a nation really doesn’t seem to know what to do with the stuff once it’s grown and processed. Indian chaiwallahs overwhelmingly serve tea powder boiled in sweetened milk for upwards of an hour and left to stew all morning to produce a substance almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea. If you’re a fan of tea brewed the way God intended, it’s best to self-cater, using your own tea bags.

6. You can have a great trip to India without ever venturing into the “Golden Triangle”

Countless visitors to India spend their first encounter schlepping between Delhi, Agra, Jaipur and Varanasi according to an itinerary promoted by external agencies as a trip through the very best India has to offer. This tactic has led to the “Golden Triangle” becoming one of the most overcrowded, over-touristed, overpriced and underwhelming portions of the entire subcontinent. Not only are there other parts of India, there are other parts of India that are substantially friendlier, more beautiful, less polluted, and less generally stressful than these four cities. If you’d like to visit Rajasthan, try heading further west to the peaceful holy city of Pushkar or the lovely lake city of Udaipur; or why not approach Varanasi from Kolkata (see above) rather than Delhi?

7. The Taj Mahal isn’t the only beautiful building in India

The Taj is without a doubt India’s most iconic architectural site, and many people travel to the country simply to view it. That’s a shame, because there’s a wealth of other buildings and sites in the country that often get overlooked in the Taj’s shadow. The Sri Meenakshi temple in Madurai, Tamil Nadu is a striking example of Dravidian architecture; the Ellora caves near Aurangabad in Maharashtra are full of stunning rock-cut sculptures; and the 16th-century Mattancherry Palace in Cochin, Kerala is well worth a visit for its painted murals and polished wooden floors. Look beyond Agra, and India’s wealth of architecture might just surprise you.

8. Most Indians really do just want to help

The Golden Triangle (see above) and Delhi in particular are well-known among travellers for the number of commission-merchants and scam-artists whose primary motivation is to separate unwary tourists from the contents of their wallets; visitors to these areas are wise to be cautious. Outside of the major tourist centres, the majority of Indians really do want to help you have a good experience of their country; it’s not uncommon to be invited to somebody’s house for tea or dinner, and travellers to India often make lifelong friends with local people they meet on the road. Use your common sense and follow your instincts, but remember that the majority of Indians genuinely do want to give visitors a warm welcome.

Originally published at www.holidayextras.co.uk