Review: les ballets C de la B in Lisi Estaras's primero at Lilian Baylis Studio, Sadler's Wells

Performance: 5 - 7 May 2010
Reviewed by Fiona Campbell - Friday 7 May 2010

les ballets C de la B, Lisi Estara's 'primero' 5-7 May, Lilian Baylis Studio. Photo: Chris van der Burght

Reviewed: 5 May

Freud would have a field day with a glimpse into the childhood of Lisi Estaras. “My parents having sex” was just one of the startling explosions of dialogue weaved into the whirlwind of choreography. Lust driven duets, desire and playful deviance simmer throughout the narrative as we are taken on a journey through Estaras’s disjointed recollections of her upbringing.

The tone of primero is instantly larky. Five dancers spring up from the floor, one by one, limb by limb they are magnetically drawn down again. Like puppets on a string they awkwardly rove around the green carpeted sitting room. Then, like a bolt of lighting, propel upwards with a surge of uninhibited energy. The sprightly outbursts are almost animalistic as the dancers modulate between waves of nostalgic tenderness, wry humour and bountiful excitement. Scurrying behind the old antique furniture with a mischievous glint in their eyes; licking their fingers in delight as if they’d just been dipped in a pot of treacle; tumbling and flipping with their friends in tow. And then, it’s Friday.

Friday, we are told, is a day of rest. Friday, is a day to make love. Friday is where exhilaration descends into madness. Spiraling along a delirious trajectory the dancers disperse in an auto-hypnotic state, taking with them any decipherable element of the plot. They sing with patriotic passion, laugh, jump, and then collapse and cry. Amidst the chaos, clarinetist Yom perches patiently in a brown Dickensian-like leather armchair accompanying them throughout their surrealist jaunt. In the programme notes Estaras acknowledges the reassurance we feel looking back on our past. The wisdom of age offering a fresh realisation that we all undergo similar experiences growing up. Primero cleverly plays on our identification with the past, adding a subtle layer of intimacy between performance and spectator. Within the first few minutes of the piece you could see the sly smiles appearing across the faces of some not so naive parents in the audience. Clearly the scene where one of the performers takes a swig on a liquor bottle, to promptly declare his subsequent drunken state struck a familiar chord.

les ballets C de la B have always been mesmerising performers and the cast of primero proved no exception. Skillfully blurring the boundaries of dance, drama, comedy, acrobatics and music they communicate to the audience not only what is explicit, but more importantly what is implicit. The company motto states that: *“this dance is for the world, and the world is everyone”* and they clearly endeavor to embrace it. Not only do they demonstrate a diverse physicality but there is a palpable array of personalities. The only thing each dancer has in common is their individuality, each willing to throw their weight behind every micro second of movement.

Estaras has been working with C de la B for nearly thirteen years now. The gregarious spirit and boundless generosity of her vivid childhood anecdotes are frequently illuminated by C de la B’s inescapable idiosyncratic style. Even among the moments of confusion it is difficult not to adore this delightfully diverse collective.

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