Review: Eastman - Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui – 4D - Sadler's Wells

Performance: 23 & 24 June 2014
Reviewed by Josephine Leask - Tuesday 24 June 2014

4D. Photo: Bettina Strenske

Sadler’s Wells hip mini-season Sampled, aimed at attracting younger and wider audiences, presents the sexier highlights of works by high profile choreographers. Carefully tailored to create maximum impact the dance in the main theatre is shown alongside other attractions throughout the building such as installations, screenings of cutting edge dance films, live music and workshops all of which create a fresh, buzzy festival vibe.

The overriding theme which oozes from the super-sensuous duets by members of Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s company Eastman, is sex. However, as well as male bodies fusing with female ones (in a very heterosexual matrix for each duet), there is also the fusion of musical styles and musicians, reminding us of the multi-textured layers and influences with which Cherkaoui works. Taken from existing pieces, the duets, out of context, still convey Cherkaoui’s intriguing questioning of the body and what affects it.

Matter is a quirky demonstration of unequal love and loneliness. Guro Nagelhus Schia is all yogic goddess while Kazutomi “Tsuki” Kozuki is her devoted, simple servant. He clowns around her as she calmly twists her limbs into Shiva-esque sculptures with an air of superiority and disdain. With his pliable physicality he morphs into any object that she needs, until he simply leaves, waking up in an explosion of Japanese expletives. On screens behind them are the shadows of another couple carrying out daily activities, equally disjointed and separate. The presence of live musicians, their melancholic music and the film of a limitless Japanese shopping mall leaves us feeling as stranded and lost as the dancers.

Pure from TeZukA, is a display of delicate passion which dips into narratives of agony and ecstasy. Guro Nagelhus Schia luxuriates in the divine sensual presence of her lover, Vebjorn Sundby. Their partnering, like in all of the duets except Matter is symbiotic. They seem joined at the hip with every body part making contact as they dive into or surf on each another. The bliss of their physical union is tainted when he disappears and she draws recklessly, although choreographically, over her body with black ink.
The nurturing, angelic love of the couple in Pure takes a dramatic dive into the carnal, violent passion in Sin. Here there is a struggle for supremacy or even survival between male and female, played out in a sadistic sexual romp. Naked torsos writhe and gyrate against each other reflected in the mirror above them. This is by far the most forceful duet in terms of questioning identity and where one body begins and the other ends; these two bodies seem to emerge from one, and gender becomes irrelevant.

Faun is an earthy yet ethereal mating between man and woman but also a meeting of East/West composers – Claude Debussy and Nitin Sawhney. The duet’s main attraction is the sensational image of a forest which continually changes because of lighting effects. Visual setting is usually very striking in Cherkaoui’s work and no more so than in the music video Valtari, in which two loved- up strangers meet in an abandoned factory on some European industrial wasteland. Crumbling and toxic, the building communicates much more than the tussle between the lovers which becomes gratuitous and over sensationalised – in true music video fashion.

While most of the duets convey an over-idealised portrayal of heterosexual love, and certain movements are overdone, the duets magnify Cherkaoui’s attention to detail and versatility as a choreographer.

Part of Sadler’s Sampled, which continues with Playlist (28 & 29 June). You’ll also find lots of free activities, talks and performances in the foyers and workshops at just £2 a session at the weekend.

Photos: Bettina Strenske

Josephine Leask is a lecturer in Cultural Studies on the BA (Hons) degree course at the London Studio Centre and London correspondent for The Dance Insider.

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