Review: Sampled at Sadler's Wells

Performance: 26 & 27 Jan 08
Reviewed by Libby Costello - Wednesday 30 January 2008

In a frenzy of activity, Sadler’s Wells opened its doors even wider to the dance loving public this weekend. This cut-price show, (with the aim to create new dance audiences – and ultimately increase ticket sales for Sadler’s Wells) saw several big names in dance contributing to the weekend’s programme. Giving the audience a taste of live performance, ranging from Flamenco to Hip Hop on the main stage, Sampled also included numerous interactive dance games, site specific performance, dance films and a rolling human chain throughout the foyer – all for no more than £10!

This barrage of activity felt welcoming and engaging, offering the seasoned dance viewer and the curious first timer something new and inspiring to watch. Arriving early allowed the chance to play on the dance mats, have a go at choreography via interactive computer software and be intrigued by the mass of human bodies travelling around the foyer by clambering over each other. This exhausting rolling ball of performers from the London Contemporary Dance School saw no obstacle as they travelled up and down the stairs as one organism.

The programme on the main stage opened with María Pagés phenomenal Flamenco performance, including extracts from her show coming to Sadler’s Wells in March. Known as the ‘dancer with endless arms’, Pagés movements were lyrical and dramatic, demonstrating the expressive use of the arms in this dance style, coupled with controlled strong footwork. This helping of Spanish dance gave the audience a chance to experience not only an award-winning dancer but also live musicians, culminating in an electrifying performance.

Contrasting with this traditional dance style, Jasmin Vardimon Company, brought an example of dance theatre – a new work Yesterday. This offered the audience a glimpse of the fusion between dance, drama and physical theatre. The opening section saw a female performer balanced upon the up stretched legs of a male dancer, whilst holding a fishing rod. The camera attached to this rod surveyed the audience, allowing baffled faces to be projected upon the backdrop.

Vardimon’s trademark use of projection on to dancers bodies was humorously integrated as the dancers stood with their backs to the audience at an imaginary urinal. The naked backs, with bum cracks showing, allowed the works title to be projected upon the dancers skin. The final most shocking section to this work included a male political rant coupled with the ferocious waving of the English flag. The speech starting with ‘men should not dance!’ controlled the rest of the company, who were flung across the stage with every swish of the flag.

The charming, lovable character of Gluby created by French Hip Hop artist Salah, brought the first act to a close. A combination of masculine movement executed by a cute clown-like character was a welcome spin on the dance style, offering the audience a chance to see the versatility of Hip Hop. This combination of popping, locking, breaking and freestyle brought movements that defied gravity and saw limbs shifting faster than the speed of light, all wrapped up by a comic squeaky voice.

After witnessing dancers performing within life size specimen jars in, supplied by Clod Ensemble in the foyer, the second act opened with Prokofiev pas de deux by Christopher Wheeldon. The lines and movements witnessed were pleasant but the piece lacked excitement. While Wheeldon is working to develop ballet audiences, offering new choreographies to ballet repertoire, this piece did not gain the audiences attention long enough to fall in love with art form.

The second Hip Hop piece of the evening came from Boy Blue Entertainment. This extract from Pied Piper, an Olivier Award winning choreography felt more like the culmination of a community dance project than a professional company. The dancers strength and ability came through but the choreography felt staid, like a ’90s Hip Hop dance video with male/female stereotypes – emphasised by the scantily clad girls.

The final work on offer came from the Ballet Boyz, now surely a household name in dance. This Tango flavoured choreography by Strictly Come Dancing judge, Craig Revel Horwood, combined two famous tango songs La Yumba and Adios Nonino. The work had its charms, showing of the laddish bond between the two dancers along with leg tricks, gauchos and carousels. Dubbed the ‘Kray twins of contemporary dance’ by compere Jonzi D the pair delivered an enjoyable duet showing how dance styles can be fused, yet keep their integrity.

Sampled matched its mission statement, giving the audience a taste of the multitude of dance styles which are available to watch and participate in. The technical delays and overly long fill-ins by Jonzi D at times saw the night dip into TV show mentality. Yet Sadler’s Wells struck the right tone with the event being balanced between challenging and accessible. The option to view the performance online via a webcast on the Saturday night helped open the London dance scene to a wider audience – a feature that would be welcomed on a regular basis.

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