Review: Henri Oguike Dance Company in Little Red/Touching All/All Around/Green in Blue at Laban

Performance: 19 & 20 Nov 08
Reviewed by Katie Fish - Monday 24 November 2008

The ironically titled *Little Red* is about as far removed from the nursery rhyme from which it assumingly takes its name as you can imagine. It is a seductive, red and black number that is accompanied by a lively rendition of Vivaldi’s violin concerti. The six female dancers perform convulsive gestures and rapidly shifting poses as they each compete to dominate the limelight. As with each note in the electric score, every step is clear and precise, and the dancers all seem keenly aware of their own alluring charm. In contrast, they feign a girl-like naiveté as they skip spiritedly around the space, quite another species to the preying pack of wolves they suggested previously.

In one solo, a dancer is silhouetted against a stark white backcloth as she executes a series of slower, more controlled postures. Elsewhere, expansive kicks and elastic extensions are juxtaposed with sharp elbows and flexed wrists, and there are sudden moments of union in which every movement is highly stylised and purposeful. Although Oguike’s choreography can sometimes feel repetitive, the pulsating force of the dancers’ energy, driven as it is by the virtuosic strings, remains constant throughout the piece.

In Touching All/All Around, Oguike’s most recent addition to the company’s repertoire, the dancers perform around white, gauzy drapes that mask their shifting profiles. Behind this, a stream of dancers runs like a continuous strip of film, coming to a pause to allow them to execute a series of solos and duets, before moving on again. The movement changes from steady to sudden and from jerky to melting as the striking Pueblo guitars and lyrics spill out from the stage. As they move out into the space, the dancers roll frenziedly across the floor and thrust themselves forward with their hips. There is an urgent, almost wild air, which makes the movement appear improvised and innate.

In a later section, now accompanied by percussive drumming and tribal chanting, they perform low scissor-jumps, frantically run and shake their hands, form wide rond de jambes and stamp their feet. The work’s engaging physicality ends with the dancers standing well-grounded and striking themselves frantically with open palms.

Green in Blue is a pleasing melange of Ian Bellamy’s live jazzy score, and Oguike’s sinuous, choreography in which swaying hips and shoulders and arching torsos are partnered by vibrating chords and sound-box effects. In one playful duet, the dancers lunge towards and away from each other, stepping in and out of each other’s space, forming a sense of engagement without physically touching. Whereas the previous two works used jagged, angular choreography, in Green in Blue the dancers’ movements are composed of soft, circling hands and arms, rotating knees, and spiralling spines. At moments, the dancers appear to luxuriate in the rhythm of the sax, filling every note as arms sweep through the air, and extensions fold into lunges and melt into the ground. Indeed, this sense of harmony between visual and aural elements continues until, twenty minutes later, the final duet ends in a unifying embrace, closing what is a varied and inventive mixed bill.

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