Review: Compass

Performance: Monday 23 April
Reviewed by Laura Dodge - Thursday 26 April 2012

'Compass' Photo: Bettina Strenske

For the last two years Sadler’s Wells’ Creative Learning department Connect has engaged non-professional dancers of all ages and levels of ability in education projects, culminating in a main stage performance. As London takes centre stage in its Olympic year, this latest work, Compass, reflected the many worlds that combine to form the city’s rich culture and diverse communities. The vibrant show brought together a team of choreographers, a writer, a film-maker, designers, composers and musicians with a cast of over 100 performers from a variety of backgrounds.

Compass used participants’ individual stories but showed how these experiences interconnect. A local community group, including some people with learning and physical disabilities, worked with dancers from Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s Eastman. Dressed in red and amber, their hands unfolded delicately like butterfly wings and they interweaved to create numerous group poses. Vocational and CAT (Centre for Advanced Training) dance students performed at an increasingly frantic pace amidst traffic noise and tube station announcements. Working with Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch, their choreography involved a quivering and vibrating mass of people, from which aggressively groping soloists and duos emerged.

Sadler’s Wells’ Company of Elders worked with Jasmin Vardimon Company. Dressed in green, they commenced shuffling behind enormous maps which were then moved overhead to become tent-like shelters. Gotitas de Sabor, a Columbian company of school children who collaborated with New Adventures, counted in Spanish and danced salsa. A youth dance group, who also engaged with Jasmin Vardimon Company, began their segment with a silhouetted figure attractively rotating her wrists. A group of teenagers then appeared with one amusingly asserting: “I’m obsessed with chocolate – I would swap my sister for a Kinder egg!”

As a whole, Compass demonstrated the dynamic and diverse feel of London with an infectious sense of joy and vitality. Film sequences by Tal Rosner were interspersed between danced sections, with disorientating shots from the trees of Hampstead Heath to roadmaps, high-rise buildings and doorways adding to the choreography to create a lively portrait of the city.

In the programme notes, The Observer critic, Luke Jennings, describes how Sadler’s Wells’ Creative Learning department challenges audience understanding as to “what actually constitutes dance-performance, and as to who should or should not call themselves dancers”. Indeed, with participants ranging from those with disabilities to pre-professional dancers, and movement varying from walking to highly technical choreography, Compass really does confront typical assumptions about dance.

The show’s different sections each represented a distinctive side of London in their choreographic style, costume colours and group of participants. But when performers combined in a metaphorical rainbow of varied shades, cultures and experiences they filled the stage in a positive and audience-pleasing finale. Compass is a wonderful show which proves everyone has a story to share and anyone can be a dancer.

Read more on the Compass blog

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