Review: James Wilton Dance - Last Man Standing - The Place

Performance: 6 May 2015
Reviewed by Josephine Leask - Friday 8 May 2015

James Wilton - Last Man Standing
Photo: Werner Kmetitsch

Performance reviewed: 6 May 2015

James’s Wilton’s Last Man Standing doesn’t need the audience warmed up as it makes an immediate impact. However members of Scatter, The Place’s Adult Dance Company, do a good job in setting an appropriate tone for the evening; one that is charged with psychedelic rock- band chic and athletic prowess. The eighteen dancers performing Wilton’s The Same River, slowly traverse the stage in cascades, sometimes rolling, sometimes walking – the sheer number of them eating up every corner of the space. Their bodies ebb and flow in a continuous flux of motion, even when they break off from the group to work in pairs or trios. Wilton’s grounded, muscular movement style is embodied impressively by Scatter but what I enjoy most is seeing their sheer numbers fill the stage.

Last Man Standing could be the supporting act for any dark, moody Indie- art-rock- band. It’s not just because of Tool’s angst ridden music throughout, but also the lighting and smoke which constantly frame the dancers in silhouette. While Wilton creates a world of shadowy sci-fi fantasy and Greek mythology (the work is inspired by Terry Pratchett’s The Last Hero and Orpheus and Eurydice), there is nothing remotely nebulous about his choreography which has its own driven intensity.

The movement is weighted with a meditative quality, (you can see the influences of capoeira and martial arts), an alert groundedness that prepares the dancers for big leaps onto the shoulders of a partner or down into the floor. In Act 1 – Life, the performers struggle to survive in a battle scene in which every body part is used to surf on or off each other’s torsos. With the crescendo in volume of Tool’s volatile music, so too do the dancers intensify their game in spectacular rounds of partner- work, using the impetus of other bodies to enhance their flight. It’s exhilarating to witness but while the action is risk taking, it is also measured through the calm and released bodies of the dancers.

Michael Kelland, a grim reaper prototype with pendulum arms is a brooding reminder of death for the others and he returns to dance with Sarah Jane Taylor. In a fascinating contest for survival she fends him off propelling her arms like aggressive wind-mills.

Act II – Death has an altogether more creeping yet equally forceful energy. Sarah Jane Taylor as the Eurydice character awaits forlorn in an underworld of writhing bodies. A solo performed in silence and on the floor is a welcome break from the noise and the brooding male presence of the work. After this the boyish rock-gig quality resumes but it is definitely more textured this time.

Wilton positions himself centrally within his company in Last Man Standing both as a ‘hero’ and as Orpheus, however his presence doesn’t detract away from the power of his equally fine dancers. Also as choreography is the dominant feature of his work, other components such as ‘characters’ or ‘stories’ are superfluous. With its themes of survival and struggle, temperamental rock- music and youth, Last Man Standing is a strong contender for summer musical festivals such as Latitude.

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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