Features Published 18 December 2017

Exeunt’s Dance Highlights of 2017

Post-coital laziness, ragtime romps, and a deathly birthday party: here’s Exeunt’s dance critics on their favourite shows of 2017.

Exeunt Staff
Requardt and Rosenberg's DeadClub™ at The Place.

Requardt and Rosenberg’s DeadClub at The Place.

Requardt and Rosenberg’s DeadClub – The Place
So much of dance is about love, lust, fertility and baby-makin’. In 2017, I counted more horny pas de deux playing out at 8pm on London’s stages, than I did on the streets of Soho at 3am.* Meanwhile, benevolently serving the more macabre-minded,  Requardt and Rosenberg were welcoming audiences to a birthday party with the unorthodox theme of demise. And this was DeadClub – a vividly unconventional, candy-striped hit of mischief, laced equally with New Wave references and vintage sharpness. Hannah Clark deserves an extra Brussels sprout for a wickedly playful, curiously interactive set, which had more novel hidden treats than that designer advent calendar you almost spent £150 on. In short: dead good.

*Full disclosure, for the statisticians and bosses amongst you, I’m normally home by midnight. (Amelia Forsbrook)

Horizontal Pleasures. Photo: Anne Tetzlaff

Horizontal Pleasures. Photo: Anne Tetzlaff

Florence Peake, Touch Horizontal Pleasure – Bosse & Baum | Eros and Simone Simone, Untitled(?) – New River Studios
I was sad not to write about Florence Peake’s extraordinary Touch Horizontal Pleasure (Bosse & Baum, London, September 2017). Four hours of drawing, rolling, holding, lying, teasing, falling, wrestling, dancing… a post-coital laziness, where absent-minded hands toy with the bodies of lovers. The skill and spontaneity of the performers undercut some of the potentially overwhelming coolness of the work – genius women getting stuck and unstuck as they grew grimy-smeared with oil pastels – always becoming more and more delirious, giddy and exhausted. Very dreamy. Otherwise… Eros and Simone Simone trying to burn down a warehouse at Low Stakes Festival (New River Studios, London, February 2017) was pretty memorable, offering everything I think I’ve ever wanted from dance and performance – violence, indifference, bewilderment, endlessness, stupidity, laziness, pointlessness, uncertainty, irresponsibility – I’m pretty sure I still smell like smoke…. (Paul Hughes)

SPOTTED, Dance International Glasgow. Photo: David Kiers.

SPOTTED, Dance International Glasgow. Photo: David Kiers.

SPOTTED – Dance International Glasgow 2017
Directed by Margrét Sara Guðjónsdóttir, SPOTTED possessed an exceptional affective force. Many artists have made work about a contemporary experience of anxiety familiar to many – a sense of not moving yet yearning to do so, of a life lived as a stutter – yet none have so articulately placed and held me within the state. An excruciating slowness, long periods of drone and even longer periods of silence; SPOTTED left me longing for it to end, continually trying to distract myself from it happening, yet never able to draw myself away. Totally unmissable. I’ve never felt so shook by a piece of work. This year’s Dance International Glasgow was a real highlight of the year – and it’s this work in particular that I’ll never be able to forget. (Andrew Edwards)

Pina Bausch's The Rite of Spring at Sadler's Wells.

Pina Bausch’s The Rite of Spring at Sadler’s Wells.

Pina Bausch’s The Rite of Spring – Sadlers Wells
Raw, propulsive, hypnotic, Bausch’s take on The Rite of Spring has a percussive urgency and roiling, sensual terror that has the approximate affect of a strong drink taken straight to the brain. The curved backs, the drumming fists, the pulsing pliés of the choreography feel so true to the black heart of desire, celebration and physical awakening that it’s as alarmingly intoxicating as experiencing any of those things neat. Performed by the ENB after two ballet pieces, The Rite of Spring felt like the rules had just been torn asunder before my very eyes. The standing ovation was almost unanimous. (Ka Bradley)

Hidden Architectures, Dance International Glasgow. Photo: Julia Bauer.

Hidden Architectures, Dance International Glasgow. Photo: Julia Bauer.

HIDDEN ARCHITECTURES – Dance International Glasgow 2017
Choreographer Saffey Setohy and composer Jan Hendrickse’s Hidden Architectures was a seemingly simple piece of work. Three pairs of performers connected mouth-to-mouth by a thin wire exploring how this effects their movement. We watched them shuffling back and forth, twisting left and right, tangling and untangling, struggling between constraint and liberation in a hollowed out industrial space. Made with admirable clarity, well-performed and beautifully lit – this was a very well made piece of work. That meant it was perfect for watching, speculating and coming back to again six months later. (Andrew Edwards)

The Theatre of Mistakes’s Going  Raven Row
Five office suited performers appear to be trapped in a clockwork mechanism of repetitive gestures, forever meaning to leave, never getting anywhere. Delivered with a soft glee, fragments of text, both melodramatic and perfunctory, punctuated this complex and mathematically dense choreography. Going was gloriously and simultaneously elegant, understated, very funny and maddening. Whilst seemingly sliding towards an inevitable entropy, it retained a lightness through the care and precision of its performers, whose attention to the smallest adjustments was deeply engrossing. Although originally created in 1977, Going didn’t seem caught in any kind of art-historical purgatory, it’s glitchy computer programme updated and revised through new performers and a playful undercurrent of possibility and subtle subversions to the system. (Rohanne Udall)

Elite Syncopations at the Royal Opera House. Photo: Bill Cooper.

Elite Syncopations at the Royal Opera House. Photo: Bill Cooper.

Kenneth MacMillan: A National Celebration – Royal Ballet
In November the UK’s ballet companies triumphantly joined forces to celebrate the work of Kenneth MacMillan, marking the 25th anniversary of his death. This wasn’t about the big three act belters for which MacMillan’s best known (like Mayerling, WHICH I VERY MUCH ENJOYED in May).  Instead a series of double and triple bills demonstrated the depth and variety of choreographer’s oeuvre. There was MacMillan the classicist, paying tribute to Petipa and Ashton in the plotless Concerto, the second movement of which shows just how exquisitely MacMillan could shape movement for two people. Scottish Ballet’s revival of early work La Baiser de la fee was a fascinating piece, offering glimpses of knotted pas de deux to come – tortuous dances for tortured souls. Then there was Elite Syncopations, a ragtime romp with a trippy aesthetic that reveals finely-crafted levels of shapeliness and silliness. Elsewhere, the dark stuff emerged. The Judas Tree, maligned as misogynistic by some, is a study of sexual hostility and self-hatred. It has a nightmarish intensity and inventiveness. It expresses something horrible about psycho-sexuality and the perennial nature of gendered power structures that cannot be dismissed as too distasteful for the ballet stage. (Anna Winter) 

A Room For All Our Tomorrows. Photo: Alicia Clarke

A Room For All Our Tomorrows. Photo: Alicia Clarke

Igor and Moreno’s A Room for All Our Tomorrows– Dance Xchange, Birmingham
It seemed like it would be difficult for Igor and Moreno to top their incredible Idiotsyncrasy, in which they jumped non-stop for an hour. Instead A Room for All Our Tomorrows managed to stretch even further than the previous show in its balance of humour and melancholy and exasperation at the absurdity of the world. Once again at the core of the show is a feat of endurance. In Room… the pair spend at least the first 20 minutes constantly screaming while they dance, and drink around 8 espressos between them. But like Idiosyncrasy these extreme acts are far from being all the show is. In fact these opening salvos just serve to create the mad world that is then delicately broken down with choreography and singing that is beautifully vulnerable. Along with the performances, the design was perfectly pitched, from their tailored suits to the gently shifting lighting to a table that managed to be a little bit magical. And among all the genuinely, delightfully surprising moments in the show was a moment of singing so original, yet at the same time so meaningful, it seemed amazing I had never seen it used before. (Lilith Wozniak)

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