Review: Aracaladanza in A Slice of Paradise at Sadler's Wells

Performance: 25 Oct 08
Reviewed by Rachel Nouchi - Wednesday 29 October 2008

Family Weekend - Aracaladanza 'Tac Tac' 26 Oct, Lilian Baylis Studio, Sadler's Wells

A Slice of Paradise may well have been created as a children’s folly, an orchestrated playground where the everyday takes flight into the imaginary, where birds fight with dancers and bin-liners turn into puppets, but it works for adults too. This 50 minute gem, like going for a walk in the park with a toddler on an autumn afternoon, evokes that residue of childish imagination in us all and peels open the possibility of allowing anything to happen.

As the first piece, *The curtain becomes a garden, there was rubbish everywhere* swings into life, the dancers pick up scattered newspapers strewn across the stage, stuff them into black dustbin liners and when full, the bin-liners are transformed into natty little newspaper puppets that dart across the stage, stopping now and then to jiggle their feet in a sailor dance routine. Cleverly linking the opening of the performance with foyer activities, where children were invited to transform old newspapers into fancy costumes, many worn in the auditorium, this act was funny and inventive but perhaps didn’t conform to what many young children imagine when they picture a performance of dance. My four year old, for example, tapped me on the shoulder and whispered, “Mummy, why are there rubbish bags on stage and will it be cleared up?” But once we got past the rubbish moment, she was swept along with the action and alchemy of the performance with the rest of the young audience.

While advertised as contemporary dance for children, the movements were simple and easy to follow, yet nonetheless graceful and masterful, especially when sliding from dance to puppetry with effortlessness. In a blink of an eyelid, dancers became puppets and back again. A particular favourite with the younger audience was *Birds are dancers acrobats too + an argument between the dancers*, where giant puppet birds, flamboyantly coloured purple and pink, manipulated by the dancers, pecked and strutted their way across the stage and judging by the squeals of delight, proved that large furry animal-puppets are always a hit with a young crowd.

Use of colour played an important part of stage design, with each vignette drowning in one primary colour or another. In the poetic scene where bubbles fall like snow onto the stage until a giant bubble appears out of the background with dancers folding themselves around it, the entire setting is primary red lighting and bright red costumes which set against the transparency of the bubbles, makes for a visually powerful set of images.

Perhaps the most striking choreography of the performance was a scene where the dancers hidden by fabric, shuffle onstage clad from head to toe in a mass of material with an orange lining that soon take on the shape of kimonos. As headless kimonos drift around the stage, white masks appear from inside the folds of the fabrics and are positioned so the headless kimonos become masked figures. The effect is dreamy and mystical as these elegant figures drift across the stage.

A Slice of Paradise it is, a visual feast for children that breaks down the barriers of what is deemed suitable for kids’ entertainment. Madrid based Aracaladanza and its inventive choreographer, Enrique Cabrera however, neither underestimates, as is so often the case, nor oversells, thus creating a picture that will indeed appeal to any age from four years old to 100.

A Slice of Paradise was part of Sadler’s Wells Family Weekend.

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