While I was disappointed with Anand Bhatt’s Wild Card last week, this had an awful lot to do with the enormously high standards that the previous Wild Card evenings had set up. And while I’m wary of making assumptions about process, the first thing that struck me on looking at the programme was that Bhatt wouldn’t be featuring himself as a dancer or as a choreographer. He is a Leicester-based producer who has put together this programme based on stuff he likes essentially. Of course, there’s no reason a producer can’t be a very fine curator of work and many are but it does change the nature of the endeavour. My understanding of the whole Wild Card project was that it was specifically about artists creating other artists’ work: opening up doors by taking curation out of the hands of the theatre’s own producers.
Whether or not this has any connection with the process, the feeling I got from the structure of each of the previous Wild Cards I’ve been to has been that the central piece choreographed by the curator of the evening, usually as the finale, and the rest of the evening was built around that. You could see the connections, the through-lines, the influences. What came across was the strong sense of an artistic ecology/community. These connections could be artistic, thematic or both but they left me feeling excited about that particular area of artistic enquiry. I liked the way they didn’t follow a particular format but were given space to vary substantially depending on who was putting the evening together. There were also moments when they felt like a party.
The connections between the pieces in other Wild Cards have also been helpful in acting as a lens on to the meaning that each artist wants each work to carry. The seeming randomness with which Bhatt has chosen his acts though gives off the impression of a variety show or maybe a rather good Resolution show at The Place. In the programme he describes seeing his old school friend John Berkavitch perform spoken word poetry and saying “I’ll have that”. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that, without this kind of lens, I found it particularly difficult to make any connection at all to what I was seeing on stage and what the artists thought their work was about.
Emerging Australian choreographer Lewis Major’s Glasshouses was all individual fervour and torment with muscular, aggressive contact work, totally within the current tradition of Khan, Cherkaoui and Schechter that holds such sway at Sadlers Wells and internationally. I couldn’t see what it had to do with “the inherent human capacity for credulity and the consequences of what happens [sic] when that collides with cynical opportunism” though. It looked very nice though and I liked Joel Harries original score on this and on the final piece of the evening “We are made of stories”.
Portland by Marcos Morau appeared to be a very straight-forward piece of America-bashing. So familiar and unchallenging that I could almost ignore the fact that it was happening: a bit like Coldplay or something. So we have recordings of Obama’s inauguration speech juxtaposed with the sounds of a high-school shooting as solo dancer and co-choreographer Lali Ayguadé performs the part of a kind of alien, childlike innocence placing the Stars and Stripes on some newly claimed planet. It turns out the whole thing was “a reflection on the power of contemplation, from the farthest distance to an unfocused foreground”. Is it just me or do some of these descriptions sound a little like horoscopes?
Appel by Mikael Riviere was much more interesting and far less pretentious in its exploration of b-boying to traditional Indian music, with live bansuri (flute) and tabla. It is part of a growing body of work I’ve seen lately that has been pushing and questioning the boundaries of hip hop dance and this is an area that Sadler’s Wells are clearly very keen to support and develop. It’s just a pity that this piece wasn’t presented in a context of a more exciting and coherent evening of work.
Review of Wild Card: Vicki Igbokwe
Review of Wild Card: Ivan Blackstock
Review of Wild Card: Dan Canham