Review: Sol Pico Dance Company in El Llac de les Mosques at Sadler's Wells Theatre

Performance: 23 - 24 June 2011
Reviewed by Katerina Pantelides - Friday 24 June 2011

Sol Pico Dance Company 'El Llac de les Mosques' 23-24 June, Sadler's Wells Theatre. Photo: Marta Vidanes

Reviewed: 23 June 2011

With spread eagles and high kicks aplenty accompanied by wild live music, in El Llac de les Mosques the 44 year old Sol Picó cavorted about the stage like a nubile So You Think You Can Dance contestant. But in this piece about dancing past your prime, did the impresario of Catalan contemporary dance deliver something more satisfying than acrobatics with attitude and vistas of silky inner thigh?

One thing is certain; Picó‘s odyssey into Old Age is overtly theatrical and features every cliché of a bailaora’_s mid life crisis: the tiny tutu and lacy legwarmers, the toy boy _pas de deux partner, and the mirror that gives bad feedback in the voice of the Faun from Pan’s Labyrinth. Much like a pop diva, Picó woos the audience, professing her undying love for them, both verbally and in flashy virtuoso stunts with several costume changes.

All the costumes – from the bad-ass ballerina get up to the synchronised swimmer ensemble – are put together by Picó herself. Though they reveal acres of toned, tanned flesh, these pieces of elastic become protective armour against the less glamorous side of aging. Still, moments of vulnerability and truth persist, preventing the performance from resembling a second rate comeback gig. In Picó‘s characteristic humorist manner these more genuine phases do not comprise of sobbing fits, but brazen acts of resistance: when the screen-cum-magic mirror tells her that Snow White is fairer, she fiercely denies it in both words and acrobatic frenzy. She ‘renews’ herself by taking a surreal spin in the washing machine and coming out as a transmogrified Vicky Page from The Red Shoes, tapping out staccato flamenco beats on red pointe shoes.

Picó knows that she is too old – but also too wise and rebellious- to play the romantic lead, and in a pas de deux with her toy boy she is slovenly to the point of being comatose. Just when you want to chastise her for being excessively hammy; in a sporadic fit of vitality she executes a series of grand pliés into the ground with the robotic geometry of a slinky going down the stairs.

If Picó‘s performance lacked the intensity expected from a dancer who is all too aware that her days on stage are numbered, El Llac de les Mosques transgresses gender boundaries confidently. The piece becomes a manifesto for a world where artistic expression is defined by desire and aptitude instead of age and gender: two men in black waltz intimately, serenaded by a male skirt-wearing guitar player, while Picó break dances on pointe to flamenco music. Arguably, Picó‘s experimentation with different dance styles and gender roles signals her commitment to constant change and moreover, her resistance to being placed in the annals of dance history just yet.

Those who did want to define Picó, however, got their chance at the end of the performance when she invited audience members to mark her final costume of white plaster casts with their impressions. Perhaps gaining physical proximity to this dancing enigma may have allowed them to glimpse the woman behind the theatrics – but I doubt it. Picó‘s success as a performer relies upon her comic mystique, a quality which she continues to cultivate for better and worse.

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