Review: Russell Maliphant - Still Current - The Point Eastleigh

Performance: 26 & 27 September 2013 - and touring
Reviewed by Charlotte Constable - Monday 30 September 2013

Catch Still Current at artsdepot this Wednesday, 2 October

The world premiere of Russell Maliphant’s programme of work Still Current last week at The Point, Eastleigh, saw the choreographer himself* return to the stage in a darkly elegant programme, featuring as usual the integral and eclectic lighting designs of long time collaborator Michael Hulls.

Opening trio Traces kicks off with a martial art influence that lingers throughout the evening. Thomasin Gülgeç, brandishing a sword-like ‘weapon’ with poise, scuttles and prowls about the stage, predatory yet peaceful. The arrival of Maliphant increases the tension, his gestures swift and elusive. The two share moments of unison, their ‘weapons’ twirling in harmony, but Dickson Mbi’s sudden powerful presence seems to distract Maliphant, the pair in their fiery shades of red and orange subtly forming an opposition against their coolly dressed counterpart. The fate of Gülgeç now seems to rest in their hands.

Hulls’ lighting design takes greater prominence in Two, (famously danced by Sylvie Guillem) showcasing an attention-commanding Carys Staton. Limited by the boundaries her illuminated prism creates, Staton begins with slow isolations at her limbs, the audience holding their breath to Andy Cowton’s initially near-silent soundtrack. She appears almost alien, the light capturing her bare back and rippling arms, her head tucked away in silhouette. Gradually, her attempts to escape her confinement become more frantic, elastic limbs whirling like catherine wheels as lively percussion kicks in.

But perhaps the highlight of the night is the visual feast which is Still, a fierce new duet between Mbi and Staton. With the rapidly changing tempo of Cowton’s score, Mbi’s gentle turns and lingering stares electrify into jarring isolations, demonstrating the performer’s background in popping. Just as it seems his power may overwhelm him, Staton emerges as if from nowhere, again somewhat alien in a white unitard (designed, like all of this programme’s simplistic costumes, by Stevie Stewart). As the two begin to play their strengths off each other, Hulls’ bar-code-esque lighting starts to flicker over them (courtesy of Jan Urbanowski’s animation), and the bars widen and narrow as if the pair are caged by an endlessly manipulating greater power. Still is the spectacle which makes Still Current well worth catching.

The second half of the show takes a more ambient turn, opening with Gülgeç truly at home in the award-winning Afterlight (Part One). The largely introverted solo, originally choreographed as a tribute to ballet legend Vaslav Nijinsky’s ‘L’Apres-midi d’un Faune , sees Gülgeç ripple and whirl with effortless grace as speckles of light pivot around his delicate figure. His twirling, complemented by Satie’s haunting Gnossienes for the piano, is reminiscent of a ballerina on a music box. Yet he appears tormented, his back convex and his head flopping – a nod to Nijinsky’s own post-career mental health problems, perhaps.

Closing duet Interrupted Current (featuring Maliphant and Staton) showcases martial art as you’ve likely never seen it before – a graceful nod to Brazilian Capoeira. This sees a departure from the earlier works of the night in its sheer amount of contact, the pair frequently becoming a tangle of limbs. But only occasionally does this imply intimacy; twice we see Maliphant outstretched on the floor, Staton languishing at his side with a lolling head and a dreamlike gaze.
It may not be an evening of flashy thrills and spills, but Still Current offers dark and brooding escapism without the cloying poignancy or political preaching sometimes found in ‘moodier’ contemporary dance. Don’t go to be moved – go to be awed.

On tour Maliphant will be sharing roles with Adam Kirkham.

Still Current, artsdepot (Finchley), Wed 2 October (Tickets £18, Concs £15)
UK tour dates:

Based in the south of England, Charlotte Constable is a recent graduate of the University of Winchester. She’s a regular contributor to Article19 and Dancehub (Australia).

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