Review: Destino at Sadler's Wells

Performance: 12 & 13 March 2009
Reviewed by Mary Kate Connolly - Tuesday 17 March 2009

Destino, Dance United - Hofesh Shechter - Russell Maliphant

Performance: 12 March 2009

At the heart of Destino, an ambitious collaboration between Dance United and Sadler’s Wells, is transformation. More specifically, it explores the transformational power of dance. Through its participatory work, Dance United seeks to effect change in people’s lives. In 1995, they began a contemporary dance project working with street children in Ethiopia, and since then have worked within disadvantaged communities in the UK, in women’s prisons, and with young offenders. Destino, their first large-scale work for a mainstream audience, serves to physically demonstrate their achievements, but more significantly, to highlight the spirit and ethos at their core. That spirit is embodied gracefully in the bodies of Junaid Jemal Sendi and Addisu Demissie, two Ethiopian dancers who began their career in the small project which Dance United began in 1995. Destino is their Sadler’s Wells debut, and sees them dancing the choreography of renowned artists Hofesh Shechter, Russell Maliphant, and Adam Benjamin.

The opening work The Empire’s Fall by Hofesh Shechter is performed by Jemal Sendi and Demissie alongside dancers from Shechter’s own company. Empire’s Fall is essentially an investigation into the fragility of power, laced with Shechter’s signature precision and reduction of movement. Drawing the viewer in with its sinister atmosphere and lightning quick movement, Empire’s Fall is quite simply mesmerising, and leaves a gaping void when the dancer’s constant flux finally comes to a halt.

The second half of Destino is made up of A Holding Space, Jemal Sendi and Demissie’s duet, and Full Circle, a work which sees 140 performers young and old, plucked from schools and community groups in London, take to the stage. A Holding Space, choreographed by Adam Benjamin and Russell Maliphant evokes within its simple partner work and sinuous lines, a story and sense of history. Slow supported lifts give way to frenzied thrashing motion and carry poignantly, the sense of two individuals bound together, waiting.

In contrast, Full Circle, choreographed by Susannah Broughton and Tara-Jane Herbert, and accompanied by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, is an explosion of colour and force, expanding the journey of two, into one which encompasses humankind. Full Circle begins contemplatively with the older members of the cast; one white haired woman walking barefoot downstage carrying a scarlet scarf. Soon she is joined by many others, moving gently, prayerfully, before the tranquillity is shattered by the frenzied arrival of young children dashing across the stage. Through walking, running, and tumbling, seething patterns of bodies are formed and dissolved, each individual carrying a bright red scarf. The sense of choice, freedom and consequence being passed from generation to generation is clear throughout, with warring factions threatening to disrupt the unity. Conceptually and visually, this work is striking, ambitious and polished – a testament to the commitment of choreographers and performers alike.

If the aim of Destino is to demonstrate in a public arena that dance can touch, effect and transform people’s lives, and that it can do so without boundaries of background or age, then it succeeds with charm and finesse.

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