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Dance Review: Fringe at The Place, Sweetshop Revolution/Sue MacLaine

Dance is a small but sturdy part of the Edinburgh Fringe programme, with a growing number of dance makers opting to take work up to the world’s largest arts festival to nestle against stand-up comedy, cabaret and new drama. This year The Place previews six new dance works on their way up to Edinburgh; the third evening of Fringe at The Place paired a delicate biographical piece from dancer-choreographer Sally Marie with arresting autobiographical philosophy from Sue MacLaine.

I Loved You and I Loved You is a reflection on the life and work of Welsh composer Morfydd Owen, portrayed by dancer Faith Prendergast. Owen’s sex and humble social background challenged the conventions of the late-Edwardian music world; she was a celebrated pianist, singer and prolific composer, producing over 180 known compositions in the ten years leading up to her early death. Owen’s social life was no less turbulent: pursued by former politician Eliot Crawshay-Williams (Karl Fargarlund-Brekke), she chose instead to marry psychoanalyst Ernest Jones (Daniel Whiley), who may have been put a dampener on her unusual career.

Prendergast, Whiley and Fargarlund-Brekke all give strong performances. Whiley writhes himself into twisted contortions of self-torture, seemingly unable to reconcile the sexual theories of his mentor Sigmund Freud with his own repressed desires in an agonising monologue in which Jones appears to be trying to crawl out of his own skin; Fargarlund-Brekke’s character is more smoothly self-assured, but cracks in the confident surface reveal thwarted ambition and self-doubt beneath. Tiny, doll-like Prendergast first appears on stage as an embodiment of her own music, drawing notes from the piano (played by Brian Ellsbury) with a twist of the head and a stir of the arm. She whirls about her lovers with joyous abandon, soothing oil to the troubled waters of each man’s passions.

What I slightly miss from this engaging and beautifully-performed work at present is a sense of Owen’s own voice, her agency, her motivations for the choices she makes. Prendergast is the only member of the cast not to speak on stage; at present, she literally lacks a voice. The opening sequence sees her passed bodily between her two co-performers, as if she has no personal power at all. This initial impression runs quite contrary to the spirited Owen we see in later duets, but lingers in the mind even as we listen to the compositions and view the life and loves of a highly unconventional woman. I Loved You and I Loved You is presented here as a work in progress, and with further work in the studio could be a delicate, affecting gem of a piece at this year’s Fringe.

It’s not every dance theatre piece that contains the word “equivalence”. Theatre maker Sue MacLaine’s Can I Start Again Please, a philosophical investigation of the limitations of language in describing experience touching on Wittgenstein, theories of translation and child abuse, is an unusual and absorbing work. MacLaine and co-creator Nadia Nadarajah sit side by side facing the audience, a long scroll of text (a script? A set of instructions?) concertinaed between them. MacLaine introduces her putative subject – Wittgenstein – the Austrian-born linguistic philosopher whose most famous pronouncements include “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.”

Nadarajah serenely translates MacLaine’s words into beautifully gestured British Sign Language (BSL), fluid as a kathak performance and mesmerising to watch. But it’s a rebellious translation: at times, Nadarajah sits still while MacLaine pauses for some description to be interpreted; at other times, Nadarajah translates MacLaine’s direct questions to her instead of answering. MacLaine worries about how her story will be received – can she assume the audience will know who Wittgenstein is, or must this be detailed to ensure understanding? Can we ever ensure understanding? MacLaine is uncertain, and allows this theoretical uncertainty to flit lightly between the earnest and the comical.

Over the course of fifty bold, gripping minutes, a harrowing tale of family abuse emerges – a lamp, a bedroom, a house, a family, an entire world made absurd and unreal by a process of childhood dissociation. We learn the BSL signs for “repression” and “suppression”, and the difference between the two is fascinating and provoking. Where MacLaine’s concerns about the capacity of language to convey her experience are frequently laugh-out-loud funny, the audience falls into a hush of appalled comprehension at the narrative of MacLaine’s trauma. MacLaine finds a way to articulate what has happened – a way to speak “whereof” – that demands only silence in return.

Can I Start Again Please is a brave work, not only because it deals with an emotionally difficult topic but because it deals with its subject in an unapologetically rational, even academic manner. Dance theatre pieces that muse on formal and functional equivalence in language may be few and far between, but MacLaine’s warm, engaging manner, the frequent humour and the beauty of the staging mean Can I Start Again Please is inviting rather than alienating, even for those in the audience that lack large quantities of translation theory in their research backgrounds. An accomplished piece of theatre that deserves to do well in Edinburgh.

Originally published at www.londondance.com

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August 20, 2015 Posted by | Dance, Reviews | , | Leave a comment

Dance review: Compagnie DCA Philippe Decoufle, Contact, Sadler’s Wells

Contact image Bettina Strenske

Philippe Decouflé is the French theatrical magician who has previously brought to life an encyclopedia of imaginary animals (in Codex/Tricodex), delved into the secret life of shadows (Sombrero), and created the delightfully bonkers opening ceremony for the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville. His works are hard to classify, straddling the boundaries between dance, cabaret, comedy and contemporary theatre with a healthy dash of stage artifice and visual trickery.Contact, a show about sixteen performers putting on a very loose adaptation of Faust, is no different in this regard – a melange of skits, spectacle and silliness sprinkled with moments of genuinely breathtaking beauty.

Contact opens with a fluid solo for dancer Eric Martin. Dressed in a spangled tailsuit and coiffed to look just like Vincent Van Gogh’s self-portrait, Martin glides bonelessly across the forestage with a sliding variation that’s equal parts Broadway jazz and the new streetdance style of floating. As other company members filter in behind him, the pulsing sounds played live by musicians Nosfell and Pierre Le Bosfell ramp up from sparse synth percussion to a richer full-bodied soundtrack.

Contact makes mesmerising use of its cast’s many talents. Julien Ferrantishows himself to be as adapt with a countertenor vibrato as he is dancing the lindy hop; Violette Wanty joins circus-trainedSuzanne Soler for an aerial duet on bungee chords; and the exotically limber Sean Patrick Mombrunowinds himself athletically into a small box as if it was the easiest thing in the world. Lines between disciplines are blurred; musicians join in sections of dance, dancers erupt into song, and everyone is swept into the comic dialogue between the refreshingly older performers Stéphane Chivot andChristophe Salengro.

Decouflé has a similarly boundary-blurring approach to movement, with nods toMGM musicals, lively partner dance and Bauschian parade all in the choreographic blender. A lengthy dance-battle sequence recalls West Side Story; a thrilling corde lisse solo for Soler finds the acrobat whipped around at terrifying speeds (for me; clearly Soler herself has no fear). Dance scenes are frequently accompanied by live-captured video effects designed by Olivier Simola; the live action onstage is blown up onto the back wall, looped, inverted and fractured into kaleidoscopic effects that recall Busby Berkeley’s bathers in glorious technicolor.

If there’s a criticism to be made about Contact, it’s that the loose narrative of a troupe performing a strangely modified version of Faust isn’t coherent enough to frame the work effectively, and towards the comic vignettes occasionally distract from the otherwise hypnotic dance sequences. There’s a definite drop in energy towards the end as well, with the last twenty minutes feeling decidedly saggy; a sequence articulating a mathematical proof of God suffers either from sound problems or lack of rehearsal, as the unison is less taut here than elsewhere in the show for both speakers and dancers.

Overall, however, Contact is as full of strange delights as the company’s previous outings. Bizarre, otherworldly and beautiful – in other words, business as usual for the Gallic maverick.

http://www.sadlerswells.com

Originally published at londondance.com

June 18, 2015 Posted by | Dance, Reviews | , | Leave a comment

Dance Review: Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch, Ahnen, Sadler’s Wells

Image: Bettina Strenske

Tanztheater Wuppertal has a notably devoted following and, to some extent, viewers will already know what to expect from a Bausch work. A large, dominant stage set by Peter Pabst that frames, hinders or becomes part of the action; beautifully-performed gestural processions; loosely-connected vignettes; Marion Cito’s gorgeous costuming. These elements are all present and correct in Ahnen, but with an added element of strange chaos that doesn’t belong to her most famous works.

The first ten minutes of the show seem deliberately calculated to put the audience’s collective head in a spin. Bright lighting; a loud burst of German electropunk; characters strutting across the stage in a bizarre mélange of costumes that includes manga cats, kilted punks and animated hats like something out of a Magritte painting; a woman dumping wheelbarrowloads of bricks at the back of the stage; a woman attacking a concrete block with a pneumatic drill. Overlapping action and unexplained occurrences on stage are a pair of Pina hallmarks, but the frenetic rate and the dizzying randomness of events made me wonder if Bausch had popped across the border in 1987 for a trip to see one of her young Belgian contemporaries – Alain Platel, perhaps, or maybe Wim Vandekeybus.

After a while the pace settles down, but the action itself continues flitting from scene to scene without even the loose connecting theme that binds so much of Bausch’s other work. A woman with a painted face grates a stick of soap into powder onto a rug; a man appears bound with an orange in his mouth, and is given a wet-shave by a fellow cast member; somebody mops a walrus at the back of the stage. There’s a helicopter, and a dog. A man sits silently in front of a microphone with a tutu wrapped around his head; others stack bricks, wind wool and tie ties repeatedly. One man instructs another to literally jump through a hoop placed against a wall with painful-looking results.

Pain is otherwise notable by its absence here, in stark contrast to last week’s bleaker Auf dem Gebirge hat man ein Geschrei gehört. The mood is light, if relentlessly odd; Bausch’s works are usually abstractedly dreamlike, but Ahnen is more overtly surreal than any I recall to date. There’s a feeling of global wandering – the soundtrack lurches from African drumming to Monteverdi via Ella Fitzgerald and Japanese pop – and the desert evoked by the giant (and undeniably phallic) cacti seems less of a physical location and more a place of the soul.

Ahnen is certainly a peculiar kind of fun, and there are endless surprises and sweet highlights throughout – from hilarious running translations of Bizet arias to a seated ensemble section for hands (perhaps a little touch of Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker creeping in there) – but it’s hard to say what it all adds up to. The title suggests only the most hazy of clues: as a noun ‘Ahnen’ can mean ancestors (for anyone looking for connections to last week’s show it’s part of the term ‘Ahnenpass’, the document used in Nazi Germany to prove Aryan heritage) or, as a verb, to guess, intuit or suspect. Portions of the show seem to hint at a sense of wandering identity, a search for heritage, an attempt to fit in among the cacti; others seem to veer more towards a sense of guessing, intuiting, feeling without understanding.

A technical hitch with the fire curtain towards the end of the second half had the audience wondering if this was another (deliberate) strange intervention in a landscape of strange interventions – tribute, certainly, to the commitment of the cast in maintaining this most peculiar of atmospheres. Described by Artistic Director Lutz Förster as “completely crazy” and by The Guardian’s Judith Mackrell as “Bausch on speed”, Ahnen is undoubtedly an oddity among the Bausch back-catalogue but an enjoyable one all the same.

Photo: Bettina Strenske

Originally published at www.londondance.com

June 4, 2015 Posted by | Dance, Reviews | , | Leave a comment

Fiery Footwork, Flashy Fingers: Akram Khan And Israel Galván  

The always-watchable Akram Khan has been delighting audiences with his innovative combinations of kathak and contemporary dance for over a decade. No stranger to collaboration, this period has seen him work with artists as diverse as Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Sylvie Guillem and Juliette Binoche. This latest duet pairs the British choreographer-performer with flamenco superstar Israel Galván in a performance that puts the shared roots of kathak and flamenco through a blender to create a new and sometimes dazzling form.

The silence in which TOROBAKA begins brings new meaning to the phrase “hushed expectation”. UK audiences are expecting something spectacular from the superbly inventive Khan and the number of Spanish voices overheard in the foyer suggests the pull Galván has on his home audience. The performance begins with a clapping of hands and a slapping of bare feet on the floor, rhythmic kathak cycles broken up with intricate flicks and taps drawn from flamenco. Rapid whirling spins from Khan’s vocabulary are broken apart with syncopated body percussion from Galván’s, the two swooping into bull-like charges and matador swishes.

The opening duet reveals interesting contrasts between the two master performers; while Galván’s fleet footwork matches Khan’s step for step, his upper body is wilder, looser and less precise than the serene Khan’s. It’s only when the Spaniard steps to the side for an eccentric solo of hip-snapping, ferocious foot-stamping and incredibly rapid finger-clicking that his flame comes fully alive. Galván is an electrifyingly sensual performer when given the opportunity to own the stage. It’s an opportunity Khan gives generously, allowing Galván the lion’s share of the stage time — a decision that will perhaps disappoint fans who have primarily come to see the British artist perform.

An international troupe of musicians provides a soundtrack melding Carnatic ragas with Hispanic harmonies, and quickfire mnemonic syllables with lusty Spanish counting. There’s a great sense of camaraderie onstage, and the work feels like a passionate exchange of ideas — intermittently brilliant, rough around the edges and sometimes lacking in substance.

None of which seemed to bother the ecstatic crowd at Monday night’s premiere. TOROBAKA doesn’t quite offer the sublime alchemy of Zero Degrees or Sacred Monsters, but it does offer a rare chance to see two compelling performers pushing the boundaries of their respective forms.
Originally published at www.londonist.com

November 5, 2014 Posted by | Dance, Reviews | , | Leave a comment

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

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

Dance Review: Scottish Dance Theatre – Second Coming / Winter, Again – The Place

Scottish Dance Theatre 'Winter, Again' Photo: Maria Falconer

I recently had a brief but instructive Twitter debate about spoilers and when, if ever, it’s acceptable to reveal the narrative twists of a creative work within a review. It was finally decided that the ending of a 113-year-old opera that is one of the world’s most popular is probably fair game for narrative reveals, but a freshly-made contemporary dance work currently on tour poses more problems for the reviewer.

With a nod to reader sensitivities, then, I can tell you that Victor Quijada’s Second Coming is clever, engaging, and full of deconstructive deceptions. The Californian choreographer’s material is soaked in the breakdance and bodypopping of his native LA; corkscrews and six-steps meld with arcing pirouettes; gravity-defying freezes punctuate softer floorwork. Later in the piece, unison displays give way to fearless contact work and a superbly inventive trio. Tiny Nicole Guarino looks like she was born to the style, flexing and fronting like a true street battler, but the whole company throws itself into the material with aplomb.

The heart of Second Coming is a mischievous, continually evolving narrative-within-a-narrative that tricks, twists and turns itself inside-out before the end, aided by some superbly naturalistic acting from the cast and technical team. With strong physical performances and some very watchable movement material, it all adds up to a very enjoyable trip up the garden path.

Winter, Again by Norwegian choreographer Jo Strømgren takes us into the realm of a grimly comic fantasy peopled by ashen-faced sociopaths. Everything on stage is grey and muddy, from the vaguely 19th-century costumes of the dancers to the large hanging screen of paper strands through which characters frequently burst only to disappear again. Death lands unceremoniously on stage repeatedly over the course of the work – seagulls thud lifeless to the ground, then a hare and a startlingly large stag. Every once in a while, somebody tries to make off unnoticed with a corpse, as if for some unspeakable personal purpose. The whole piece has the air of a surreal Nordic fairytale, shot through with some kind of ill-defined angst.

Joan Clevillé, who also does a fantastic job of playing himself in Quijada’s piece, emerges here as a character dancer of great ability. Natalie Trewinnard wanders blindly through much of the piece; Maria Hayday seems to have grisly desires centred around a spoon. The action is unsettling but also very funny, and punctuated with rather beautiful ensemble movement. Barely-repressed erotic desires simmer just below the surface as the cast skim and loop across a winter landscape not quite snowy enough to bury their hinted misdeeds. Strømgren plays knowingly with the tropes of Norwegian narrative – mud and blood, sex and death – and the result is an enjoyably unpleasant pleasure.

On their first tour with Fleur Darkin at the helm following the departure of Janet Smith last year, Scottish Dance Theatre looks in bonny good health.Technically strong, creatively versatile and obviously unafraid of experiment, this cast and creative team herald good things for the company’s future.

Scottish Dance Theatre are currently touring. Check for dates: www.scottishdancetheatre.com

Originally published at www.londondance.com

March 11, 2013 Posted by | Dance, Reviews | , | Leave a comment

Dance: Merce Cunningham Dance Company, Merce Circus, Stratford Circus

Merce Cunningham Company 'Square Game' Stratford Circus, 1 & 2 October. Photos: Anna Finke.

Casual passers-by walking past Stratford Circus on Saturday night were arrested by a ten-foot tall film projection of Merce Cunningham’s popular 1991 piece Beach Birds on the wall opposite. Love it or hate it, there’s something uniquely mesmerising about Cunningham’s signature combination of fine-honed bodies and technical precision with Zen-like chance procedures and the apparent randomness of events onstage. This weekend, Stratford Circus celebrated both aspects of Cunningham’s legacy by filling the building with a series of works and artefacts, which viewers were invited to explore and experience using their own set of chance operations.

The centrepiece – and most conventional performance element – of Merce Circus was the company showing of Squaregame,
an ensemble work from 1976. The piece reveals the choreographer in playful mood; on a white square of dance flooring, the dancers explode into a frenzy of rapid twists, tilts and turns, skipping lightly across the stage and appearing unexpectedly from behind what look like sacks of ballast. Those sacks are sat on, tossed around, and at one point used by a dancer to bounce across stage like a child on a space hopper.

A softer moment finds Rashaun Mitchell and Andrea Weber balancing tentatively on demi-pointe for what seems like uncomfortably long, sending trembling knees to the right and left with deliberation until Weber curves sensuously back over Mitchell’s supporting torso. Takehisa Kosugi’s avant-garde score, more melodious perhaps than some of the company’s other soundtracks with its synthesised strings and wavelike ambience, is made extra-special by the 73-year old composer’s presence in the sound booth playing the score live.

As is common in Cunningham’s works, the dancers represent only themselves – dressed in blue and grey rehearsal clothes, they cut and step around the stage in groups of twos and threes, erupting into bursts of unison before falling again into individual movement patterns all based on that distinctive technique. Squaregame’s title is perfectly suggestive of the piece’s form and content: it’s a dance played like a game, the dancers proceeding from corner to corner with bison leaps and tricky triplets, and it’s shaped like a square. No narrative, no psychology, just the Cunningham dancers doing what they do best.

After the performance comes a chance for members of the audience (selected, naturally, by a chance procedure involving coloured wristbands) to learn a piece of repertory with Director of Choreography Robert Swinston. Field Dances (1963), described by Cunningham as “a dance for x dancers performed for x minutes” was inspired by children playing outside in Colorado, reflecting the choreographer’s interest in presenting all forms of movement as dance.

In the main theatre, meanwhile, another group of audience members gets to create their own dance by chance in the Move Cubes workshop, led by company Executive Director Trevor Carlson and Company Manager Kevin Taylor. One set of dice lists possible actions including walk, twist, fall and jump; another set of plain dice are used to choose anything from the length of time a movement is performed to the number of people performing it and its placement on stage.
The random fall of the dice inspires uncommon movement choices and unexpected connections – my partner and I have a great time putting together a short sequence of taps, nods and balances that we probably wouldn’t have otherwise chosen. I don’t know if the end result is a work of genius or madness, but it’s tremendous fun to make and perform and Trevor seems to like it well enough.

Elsewhere in the building are more film screenings of company tour diaries, early experiments with blue-screen (Cunningham was always interested in the creative uses of film and technology), interviews and rehearsals, and a music concert by Tekahisa Kosugi with electronic composers David Behrmann and Jesse Stiles. Archivist and Cunningham expert David Vaughan invites viewers to investigate company artefacts and rifle through his index cards, answering questions about the choreographer and company.

Downstairs in the foyer is a looped screening of five short filmed works by East London Dance associate artists Tony Adigun, Annie-Lunette Deakin-Foster, Simeon Qysea, Alesandra Seutin and Rosie Whitney-Fish. With movement styles from pulsating Africanistic dance to funky Hip-hop, the five artists explore Cunningham’s ideas and working methods to produce five distinct homages to the man.

Merce Circus is more than just a performance showcase for Cunningham’s work: it’s a very genuine, enlightening and above all fun insight into the processes and practice of the legendary choreographer. My only disappointment is that there’s no chance of it returning.

Part of Dance Umbrella 2011.

Merce Cunningham Dance Company are at the Barbican Theatre, 5 – 8 October.
(Last ever UK performances of the company – who disband on 31 December 2011, in accordance with Cunningham’s wishes)

http://www.danceumbrella.co.uk

Originally published at http://www.londondance.com

October 3, 2011 Posted by | Dance, Reviews | , | Leave a comment