Review: Sadler's Wells Sampled

Performance: 24 & 25 Jan 09
Reviewed by Mary Kate Connolly - Monday 26 January 2009

Sat 24 Jan 09

Even as the curtain rose and the gutsy flamenco stamps of performers Rojas and Rodríguez resounded through the darkness, the babble and murmur of an excited throng still rippled through the packed auditorium of Sadler’s Wells. In defiance of weather and financial crises alike, this was unmistakably a party atmosphere. The showcase event offered a taster of the wares on offer at Sadler’s Wells in the upcoming spring season with tickets a credit crunching £10, or just £5 to stand.

Performers thus twirled on high heels (flamenco duo Rojas and Rodríguez), their own heads (hip hop group B-Boy 4 Life), pointe shoes (American Ballet Theatre), and inside hoops (circus company Les 7 doigts de la main). There was a chance to see the iconic White Swan pas de deux from Swan Lake, performed initially in its traditional guise by American Ballet Theatre, and contrasted pleasingly in the second half by Matthew Bourne’s male duo. Silhouetted in pale yellow light, Dana Fouras gave a haunting performance of Two, the solo created for her by Russell Maliphant. Beginning with slow precise articulations of her upper body, the movement gradually accelerated in rhythm and speed until Fouras herself became disembodied; her flailing limbs the only discernable trace of her, amid the gloom.

Be it the eye and body popping stunts of B-Boy 4 Life, or the speed and passion of Rojas and Rodríguez, the defining qualities of all performers on the bill was excellence and drama in their respective art forms. Sampled gave the audience an opportunity not only to see their favourite performers at a discount price, but perhaps more crucially, an opportunity to appreciate performers whom they wouldn’t normally go to see. In addition to the festive atmosphere in the auditorium, the party spilled out into every crevice of the building, with installations, a dance machine and a DJ entertaining the masses during the interval. Workshops and participatory events are taking place across the whole Sampled weekend, giving theatre goers the chance to physically explore the dance which they have witnessed from their seats.

If the main aim of Sampled is to demonstrate unabashedly not only the range of dance on offer at Sadler’s Wells, but also the fact that dance is diverse, inclusive (or rather that it doesn’t have to be exclusive), and frankly, cool then it succeeded with fun and flair on Saturday’s freezing January night.

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