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Dance, reviews and dance reviews

Le Patin Libre – Vertical Influences, Alexandra Palace

Le Patin Libre in Vertical Influences

When Le Patin Libre first skated their way into London last year with The Rule Of 3 they brought a contemporary, spangle-free vibe to an artform more often associated with cheesy grins and tiny slithers of sequinned chiffon. With their deliberately pedestrian vocabulary, deceptively effortless unison and high-speed gliding, the Canadian troupe made skating as cool as the ice on which it’s performed.

Vertical Influences, a special commission for Dance Umbrella, returns the group to London as a quintet. The work is more studiedly abstract than their previous outing; instead of Rule Of 3’s character-driven narrative we have a series of formal vignettes with the focus firmly on the body in gliding motion.

There’s a loose theme of tribalism versus individuality; the five begin skating in almost martial formation to a heavy drumbeat that demands synchronicity. One by one, figures from the group break away into solo excursions that are almost always reabsorbed by the group again; the remaining four either fall into unison behind the breakaway soloist, or physically drag him or her back into the group. By the end of the show, the ensemble sections have lost their brutally syndicalist overtones and become a gentler, more graceful union.

Anyone expecting death spirals and triple salchows is likely to be disappointed; Vertical Influences is much more about gliding in elegant interleaving formations, speed-skating in slow motion, and clever footwork in thrillingly precise unison. There are occasional jumps and pirouettes woven into the movement material, and which greatly excited the gentleman seated next to me in the first half, but these are by far the least interesting thing about the performance.

Perhaps the most exciting moments come in the second half; with the audience seated at one end of the ice rink itself, the skaters hurtle towards us out of the blackness at electrifying speed, swerving away at the very last moment. The skaters glide like a well-oiled machine, unblinking as they advance on us, unflinching as they swerve away. It’s a gripping moment that only gains power in repetition.

Long-time company member Pascale Joidin brings an expressive athleticism to her UK debut. Bambi-legged Samory Ba is still the longest-limbed man on ice, a physical attribute used to both daring and comic effect in a second half solo that sees him flinging himself around his own legs and scampering across the rink on all fours. Choreographer Alexandre Hamel suffers from a few Wednesday-night wobbles in the first half, but in the beautifully-polished second half all is well.

With clear movement influences from hip-hop and b-boying as well as circus and dance theatre, Vertical Influences is a fresh, ice-cool take on contemporary figure skating. It’s great to see the troupe back in London, and it’s great to see Dance Umbrella branch out into new venues and new artforms in the name of introducing contemporary choreography to broader audiences. Keep your scorecards at home; this is best enjoyed as a piece of dance theatre that happens to be performed on ice, rather than an ice dance show.

Continues at Alexandra Palace until Friday 31 October (6.30pm & 8.30pm)
www.danceumbrella.co.uk

Originally published at www.londondance.com

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October 30, 2014 Posted by | Dance, Reviews | , | Leave a comment

Margrét Sara Guðjónsdóttir – Variations on Closer

Variations on Closer Image: John Ross Photography http://www.johnross.co.uk/

Performer and choreographer Margrét Sara Guðjónsdóttir is a new face in London, but not in her native Iceland where she has made work for theatre and outdoor spaces since 2004. Since 2007 her work has toured internationally, and this year her work Step right to it is supported by the Aerowaves touring initiative. Earlier this year, Guðjónsdóttir was commissioned by Sweden’s prestigious Culberg Ballet. All this makes the third presentation in Sadler’s Northern Light season a rather frustrating evening, then, because none of the above explains howVariations on Closer comes to be such a naïve, sophomoric and at times frankly dull piece of work.

The concept is simple: three dancers enter the stage in turn and perform sequences of minimal movement, stepping or crawling across the stage in slow motion. Laura Siegmund brings a robotic, android-like quality to her repeating movements, sometimes jittering or malfunctioning for an instant; Angela Schubot throws in moments of anti-ballet – pliés that don’t descend, and cloches with the foot flully flexed; and Marie Ursin Erichsen, resplendent in her fuschia underwear, seems to have got lost on the way to a gentlemen’s club somewhere in Soho. All three fix the audience with unwavering stares as they move, suggesting an inversion of the usual relationship between performer and audience.

There is always a place in dance theatre for the minimal, the gestural, the austere. There is always a place for the academic, for the challenging, for the downright difficult. I’ve seen enough walkouts from performances by dancemakers I admire to know that one person’s thrilling dissection of the nature of performance and performance-making is another person’s mindnumbing aberration; there’s room on the London stage for all manner of art. But at the base of Guðjónsdóttir’s piece is an overwhelming lack of curiosity, a failure to scratch beneath the surface of a potentially interesting topic.

Siegmund, with her cold, mechanical stare probably makes the best fist of the performance overall; she has an unnerving ability to make her unending gaze appear Terminator-like, as if she’s calculating the most efficient way to take out the audience. She’s also the most capable mover, infusing supple limbs with a convincingly machine-like quality. Confrontational anti-performance paradoxically requires skilled performers; Siegmund fares reasonably well but Schubot and Erichsen are simply not strong enough technically or dramatically to carry off the deliberately unvirtuoisic material.

Towards the end of the piece a scarlet curtain abruptly descends from the rig, no doubt symbolising the constructed nature of performance and our role as audience or some such. I must confess to having entirely lost interest by this point. Minimalist performance, well-executed, can be a thing of provocative delight; but there’s simply nothing of inherent interest in Guðjónsdóttir’s material, or in the way it’s danced. A difficult watch, but not in the good way.
Part of the Northern Light season at Sadler’s Wells

Originallpy published at http://www.dancetabs.com

October 7, 2014 Posted by | Dance, Reviews | , | Leave a comment