Maliphantworks sees choreographer Russell Maliphant not only return to some of his early pieces but also to the dancers that performed them. While in some cases it has been 20 years since the first performance, these works have maintained a timelessness that leaves them feeling as fresh as if they were when newly created.
As part of the spring dance programme at Print Room, Maliphant makes full use of this intriguing, Victorian venue. The opening work Wall, from Maliphant’s The Rodin Project, is presented in the venue’s small studio space. The audience are split into two groups and are led through a back door off the Coronet’s dimly lit corridors.
The intimacy of the studio space heightens the intensity of this first work. Danced upon a wall-like structure that almost brushes the ceiling, Dickson Mbi and Tommy Franzen flip and spiral across its tilted surfaces. Their movements have a relaxed, elastic quality – so much so that it’s easy to forget the challenging angle of the surfaces they dance on. Their athletic floor-work, infused with movements from break-dancing, may be a style we’ve grown accustomed to seeing, but upon these sloping planes their movements gain an absorbing air of originality.
There’s a sense of a shared intention between the two performers, a caring interaction in their expression and movements that, although rarely in unison, consistently reflect one another. Given the athletic quality of the choreography it wouldn’t be surprising to see this work performed at a fast, daring pace. Yet Maliphant chooses to keep the work slow and understated. It lends the strenuous movement a serene, graceful quality that is entirely enthralling and, if anything, renders it more impressive to watch. Short and succinct, this is one piece you could watch again and again.
The remainder of the evening is presented in the auditorioum of the Coronet. The dark, cavernous space is perfectly suited to the unadorned nature of the three solo works Maliphant presents here. It allows the fall of light upon the body to be the focus – in the darkness, the movement of each work gains an almost sculptural effect.
Unspoken, the duet Maliphant was programmed to perform with James de Maria, has been replaced by Maliphant’s solo piece One Part II, as de Maria is unable to perform due to injury. Maliphant’s fluid, sinuous movements unfold beneath shafts of light – a design by long-term collaborator Michael Hulls. As the pools of light progress across the space his movement follows, limbs pressing into their soft beams.
Despite not being a part of the original programme One Part II smoothly paves the way for the following solos. As with much of Maliphant’s work, the lighting is an integral part of these pieces. In Two the movement remains within a small square of light, but the patterns Dana Fouras performs are nonetheless complex. In the resonance of each note she begins to move, the fluent movements of her arms and upper body gaining speed with the growing intensity of the music. Although first performed 20 years ago, it still holds an arresting dynamic.
Original dancer Daniel Proietto also returns to perform the final work of the evening, Afterlight (Part One). Beneath a spiralling spot of light Proietto slowly turns, minute movements that lend him the appearance of a rotating sculpture. He seems to bathe in the light shining upon him, luxuriating in the soft extensions of his movement. As Jan Urbanowski’s spiral animation spreads across the stage the movement expands with it, before finally drawing in upon itself once more, movement and light swallowed into a swirling point of darkness.
These works may span Maliphant’s career but there’s a distinct stylistic connection between them. Presented together, they reveal the strength of Maliphant’s long-standing artistic collaborations, the skill of his performers and his ability as a choreographer to capture the interplay between light and movement. Performed at the unique venue of the Print Room Maliphantworks is an understated celebration of Maliphant’s artistry and the timeless beauty of these works.
Maliphantworks is on until 11th March 2017 at the Print Room. Click here for more details.