Sadler’s Wells Sampled is like a smorgasbord of toothsome choreographic morsels, showcasing what’s on the theatre’s menu for the upcoming season. Artistically, it’s a nourishing evening; it’s heartening to know that there’s a rich and varied dance diet promised for 2017 to provide sustenance through the dystopian shit-storm of contemporary life.
Tango dancers Julia Hiriart Urruty and Claudio Gonzalez give us a generous dollop of frothy fizz and humour with their fat-suited duet. Despite her enormously built-up bosom, both their capacious rumps and padded flanks, the two dancers are still expertly nimble, though there’s a lot of gurning and straining during the lifts. It’s such a cartoonish caper – what with all the showy mincing, moues and milking of applause – that it’s hard to genuinely believe in the claim that the work is about there being ‘no such thing as a perfect body’. As broad physical comedy spiced with technical excellence, it works. As a statement about acceptance, not so much.
One of the highlights of the evening is Russell Maliphant’s Still, performed by Dickson Mbi and Carys Staton. It’s simultaneously delicate and powerful, as the dancers swirl in concentric circuits, nearing physical collision only to spin away again, to a soundscape of pounding drumbeats. Mbi is a physically imposing presence – impressively muscled and charismatic – but there’s a wonderful sensitivity to the way he curves and extends his arm. The slight Staton, meanwhile, is like quicksilver.
Also extremely impressive was dotdotdot dance’s I Come To My Body As A Question. Comprising three young female flamenco dancers, the company deconstruct and honour the traditions of their form. This piece offers a feminist re-imagining of the (historically rather misogynist) Cuban ‘Guajira’ style, pitting the insistent voice of flamenco singer Javier Rivera against the lilting rhythms of spoken word artist Toni Stuart. The dancers occupy a defiant middle ground – there’s a startling wit to the simultaneous snap of their fans and mesmeric articulacy in the solos, with fearsomely complex footwork matched by the proud and questioning swoop of the upper body.
Northern Ballet preview a portion of their upcoming Casanova, choreographed by Kenneth Tindall. Slightly disappointingly, the titular seducer remains under wraps for now – instead, a monastic male ensemble in hooded robes display outstretched arms and prostrate patterning. Despite the dancers’ impeccable timing and the inventiveness of the devotional detail, the piece suffers like most narrative extracts would in a gala format. Shorn of context and without audience familiarity, it seems a little bland and aimless, especially in comparison with the turbo tap dancing (from Dorrance Dance) that comes before it.
Spanish hip-hop crew Iron Skull round off the evening with their full-throttle work Sinestesia, which merges breaking with a more expressive physical style. Sporting gas masks and clad in murky green and greys, the dancers occupy a post-apocalyptic world in which they huddle together for survival. That they may have mutated to a beyond-human state is implied by quadrupedal scuttling and an ability to tie some of their limbs in knots while balancing on the others. It’s still a thrill when they break out the power moves, though – ultimately, this is a dismal societal collapse that actually looks quite fun.
Sadler’s Wells Sampled was on at Sadler’s Wells. Click here for more details.