Review: Sylvie Guillem & Russell Maliphant in Push at London Coliseum

Performance: 4 Apr 08
Reviewed by Graham Watts - Monday 7 April 2008

Lighting designer Michael Hulls makes magic, conjuring with shadow and shapes to place a third surreal performer on stage alongside Sylvie Guillem and Russell Maliphant. This extra dimension is most tangible in *Shift,* _Maliphant’s creation on himself, but dancing with two of his own shadows, cast against panels by ingeniously directed lighting from the front of the stage; these silhouettes appear to be embossed into rich, 3-dimensional people with a transient quality that eschews detailed investigation since, cleverly, neither of them hangs around too long! In _*Two*, Sylvie Guillem is also dueting with Hulls’ lighting; or rather she is trapped within it, as the cascading waterfall of light, captures her feet and hands breaking out of the inner darkness with an increasing ferocity as the work accelerates to its climax.

The evening had opened with Solo, Maliphant’s creation for Sylvie Guillem, performed to the flamenco guitar solos of the late Carlos Montoya, and also thoroughly enhanced by Hulls’ lighting, which subtly accentuates Guillem’s classical elegance, beautiful line and sudden explosions of hyper-mobility. It is a breathtaking opener, followed by the dignified control and nobility of Maliphant’s own performance in Shift and the compelling, simmering intensity of Guillem’s ascent to the final climactic eruption of her flailing limbs, bursting through their streams of light in *Two* . Taken together these three solos provide a fascinating prelude to the main duet.

*Push* deservedly won a clutch of awards following its premiere at Sadler’s Wells in September 2005 and has been performed around the world since then; back in London, it certainly stands the test of time. A sultry, sinuous, musical duet for Guillem and Maliphant (staggeringly fit at 46) with the whole of the early part performed with Guillem touching the floor only sporadically as Maliphant keeps her aloft with a huge inventory of lifts and holds; Hulls’ light cleverly extinguishing from time-to-time to allow a reconfiguration of position, without illuminating any potential clumsiness in assuming the next lift. It is an immense duet – over 30 minutes long – and the performers fit the choreography so well that they appear to roll around each other in seamless waves of movement, as if controlled by some invisible magnet. It’s hard to conceive how two dancers, both in their fifth decade of life, can appear so full of youthful vitality and dance with such controlled vigour; harder still, to understand how 32 minutes can pass in a few blinks of the eye.

I overheard someone say how disappointing it was that there was nothing new in this show, but choreography as intimate and inspirational as this, lit with such stunning finesse, and performed by great dancers, will always remain fresh and powerfully invigorating.

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