Review: Philippe Decouflé - Panorama - Sadler's Wells

Performance: 2 - 4 November 2012
Reviewed by Gail Schock - Tuesday 6 November 2012

Philippe Decouflé 'Panorama' Violette Wanty & Ioannis Michos. Photo: Ambra Vernuccio

Philippe Decouflé‘s Panorama celebrates 30 years of his choreographic journey in dance, circus, theatre, costuming, creative innovation and story-telling. Not just a retrospective, this is Decoufle sharing his past as well as educating the audience in all dance has been throughout the last three decades. We are reminded not only of dance movements, but of fashion and social ones too. From groups in square-shouldered, pastel coloured corseted suits to kilted ungendered duets ( around a female stag) this is big, bold, flavoursome choreography. If dance were a garden, Panorama presents itself as a deliciously decadent bouquet of choice blooms.

Before the house lights have even dimmed come the sounds of whistle blowing, brass and cheerleading yelps from behind as the full cast make their way to the stage via the auditorium. Dressed in orange and white majorette outfits, each with compulsory baton, they twirl, perk and bounce their way to the stage – where upon a kaleidoscope of beautifully crafted featurettes begins.

Extracts from Vague Café, Jump, Codex, Petites pieces montees, Triton and Shazam! fill the stage, the sides of which are open, showing the dancers’ dressing area and the work of the crew to all. It’s as if Decoufé is saying that there is nothing to hide, have a look for yourself. Many of the dancers are new in the older pieces, dance technique has evolved and with it Decouflé’s joy at switching things up, changing ideas and trying new things.

The movement material seems to work across all ages as young children in the audience roar with laughter, whilst beside them older generations who once made similar fashion statements in the 1980s turn to one another and shake their heads in understanding. There is equal recognition of relationships and their tensions portrayed throughout the choreography. Decoufé has changed pieces that were originally danced by men to now be performed by women and vice versa. This is at times hilarious, whilst at others it is moving, poetic and delicate.

The costumes are a delight, colourful, playful and zipped up with life, they envelope the performer’s bodies as additional characters. The score, lighting and ongoing presence of the technical team all add layer upon layer of sophisticated flavour to this evolving story, film and snapshot of some of Decoufle’s best work. In a ninety minute show it’s all hits and no misses.

Much more than a retrospective presentation, Panorama is a newly stylised edition of works that have stood the test of time. Some may even say the early works have improved with age; the meaning of gesture and greeting might have changed, but it is still all part of modern day society. The constant is Decouflé, his process, his work, his charm. Snake, stag, octopus or human you cannot fail to lift your head with interest as Decouflé’s majorettes call to you. Panorama is a triumph of choreography and style.

Company site

Gail Schock is an Independent Development Manager and Producer, specialising in dance and culture.

Photos: Ambra Vernuccio

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