Review: Sampled - Sadler's wells

Performance: 3 & 4 February
Reviewed by Josephine Leask - Monday 6 February 2017

Sampled 3 and 4 February 2017

Sampled in its bid to attract new audiences as well as stimulate interest amongst existing ones, transforms Sadler’s Wells into a dynamic, interactive exhibition centre and presents not only a cross-section of choreographic gems, but also workshops, demonstrations, live- DJ’ing and Beatboxing.

The line-up of Russell Maliphant Company, dotdotdot dance, Julia Hiriart Urruty & Claudio Gonzalez, Shobana Jeyasingh Dance, Dorrance Dance, Northern Ballet and Iron Skulls Co covers eclectic territory from contemporary, flamenco and tango to ballet, tap and hip hop. What’s refreshing is that each sample offers a rather different ‘take’ on the style it represents. There’s something for everyone in the line- up and although some of the pieces feel a little truncated, and one too long (it’s a logistical marathon showcasing seven different companies) they nevertheless do succeed in whetting the appetite for more.

The all-women Dotdotdot’s I come to my body as a question reinterprets the macho lyrics of the flamenco style Guajira through a female perspective. Toni Stuart’s luscious, multi-layered poetry in dialogue with a flamenco singer, guitarist and the three dancers, explore the sensuous delights and power of the female body. Stuart’s silky, evocative voice clashes with the raucous traditional singing, throbbing guitar and assertive dancing. Yinka Esi Graves’ piece communicates through combining quirky movements with traditional flamenco steps and works as an experimental conversation between art forms.

Shobana Jeyasingh’s excerpt from Bayadere – The Ninth Life, deconstructs both Petipa’s ballet of La Bayadere but also the Eurocentric writings of French dance writer, Theophile Gautier, as he describes his reactions to watching Indian temple dancers when they visited Europe in 1838. Jeyasingh unsettles the male gaze by having male dancer, Teerachai Thobumrung, embody the eroticised, exoticised female temple dancer who both repelled and excited Gautier. Her choreography reveals a series of conflicts between race and gender as well as reflecting on Gautier’s disorientating experience as he swings between pleasure and repulsion. Aggressive, staccato gestures juxtapose with languorous, repetitive turns as this web of narratives morph from fantasy to fiction.

Spanish experimental hip hop company, Iron Skulls Co describe a dystopian nightmare, as members of their crew emerge uneasily from the auditorium, wearing gas masks and lit only by torches. Urgent and sinister their performance demonstrates competent contemporary dance techniques as well as hip hop and Sinestesia departs from the predictable aesthetics of much commercial street-dance to arrive at an imaginative alternative. While the piece sags and drags in the middle, it has its gripping moments. Iron Skulls is a company to look out for.

Argentinian tango dancers, Julia Hiriart Urruty & Claudio Gonzalez sell tango through their message in La otra cara de la Moeda that anyone can embrace it regardless of shape or size, as long as you connect with your partner. Enveloped in fat suits and bursting at the seams of their glitzy costumes, the pair display sizzling synchronicity and sharpness of footwork that remain unhampered by the layers of padding. They have the audience roaring with delight.

There’s yet more invention with American tap company Dorrance Dance. Under the directorship of Michelle Dorrance, the dancers in Boards & Chains replace music accompaniment with their own organic rhythms, polyrhythms, dynamics and counterpoint, created by articulate tapping and the manipulation of large, jangly chains. Even if you are not a fan of tap-dance, Dorrance Dance’s skill and resourcefulness are compelling.

While less off-beat in content, Still by Russell Maliphant and Kenneth Tindall’s extract from Casanova, are both seductive selling points for contemporary dance and ballet in their poetic subtlety. Still, a muscular solo by Dickson Mbi which segues into a duet with Carys Staton reveals how light projected on the body transforms actions through the interplay of light and dark. Mbi emits a grounded zen quality in the storm of Armand Amar’s intense drumming score and as light both conceals and frames parts of his body, it’s spell-binding. Tindall’s ballet is represented by an enigmatic and atmospheric scene in which a group of monks are clearly agitated. Movement is enhanced through the elegant monk’s habits as they turn anxiously, extend limbs out into space or huddle together in a paranoid close-knit community.

As Sampled goes on tour, made possible through The Movement, a producing partnership between The Lowry and Birmingham Hippodrome, it is bound to convert new fans to dance; but of a discerning kind.

Friday 24 to Saturday 25 February at The Lowry, more information and for tickets please click here
Friday 3 to Saturday 4 March at Birmingham Hippodrome, more information and for tickets please click here

Josephine Leask is a lecturer in Cultural Studies on the BA (Hons) degree course at the London Studio Centre and London correspondent for The Dance Insider.

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