Review: Summer Collection - new lines in dance at Clore Studio Theatre

Performance: 24 July 2009
Reviewed by Graham Watts - Friday 31 July 2009

This second and final instalment of the Royal Opera House’s Summer Collection was a disconnected but nevertheless thoroughly enjoyable quintet of dances, ranging from works straight out of studio development with the paint still wet to two pieces of significant artistic maturity.

Two of the five were commissioned from Royal Ballet dancer/choreographers for this collection; opening with Ludovic Ondiviela’s classical, free-flowing solo, ‘Hypnosis’, for Kristen McNally which explores ‘the connection between the self and memory’, a much trodden path in dance but one which Ondiviela nevertheless succeeds in making his own. The selfless McNally also performed in her own new work, ‘On Another Planet’. It strikes me that Ondiviela and McNally are the yin and yang of budding Royal Ballet choreographers; he, fundamentally a classicist, looking for new ways to expand balletic movement, and she, full of quirky theatrical imagination that is fulfilled through dance.

‘On Another Planet’ is a great title for a work about people-watching and particularly the gulf between what you see in the person and what you can’t see in their thoughts. McNally plays a haribo-munching youth mentally commenting on the bum sizes of those around her. But from this bitchy humour the work morphs into something more sinister as the voiceover switches to a scared Glaswegian boy running away from the prospect of being stabbed. Although I find McNally’s work memorable for its drama, humour, sounds and imagery, I struggle to remember much about the movement.

A third work was the product of Alexander Whitley’s recent workshop with Wayne McGregor. The Rambert dancer came on to diffidently explain this context and his trio for two men and a girl (Rachael Mossom, Wayne Parsons and Leon Poulton) was clearly fresh from the studio. The standard-issue knee pads testified to the demanding physicality of the work that challenged the dancers in an expansive range of movement. The McGregor influence was palpable without ‘Transmission’ being unduly derivative. The work certainly needs more attention and momentary hesitations between the three dancers evidenced its newness but – like Ondiviela and McNally – Whitley is a choreographer with a future.

Intending no disrespect to these apprentices, the maturity and holistic strength of the other two works on the programme, placed them on another plane altogether. Laïla Diallo has been working on ‘Between the Shingle and the Dune’ for four years now and it has a rounded completeness. A duet for her and Theo Clinkard, the work captures so many unspoken aspects of human coupling, from soft, quiet tenderness and mutual dependency to the assertion of individuality in the face of the oppressive burden of compromise in a partnership. ‘Between the Shingle and the Dune’ (another brilliant title) is a vigorous, virtuous and poetic dance. The closing sequence to Nina Simone’s ‘Don’t Explain’ was a perfect little capsule in which was compressed a lifetime of togetherness.

Top that, as they say. Well, Ballet Black’s gorgeous pairing of Sarah Kundi and Jade Hale-Christofi came very close in a reprisal of Martin Lawrance’s ‘Pendulum’, performed expansively to the close-cropped rhythm of Steve Reich’s electronic heartbeats in ‘Pendulum Music’. I’d seen this intense neo-classical duet very recently at the Hackney Empire and it was even better in the up-close-and-personal setting of the Clore. All the Ballet Black dancers seem to have something special that transcends any issue of race. Kundi is fast becoming the dancer of today, with a charismatic elegance that is never anything but appealing.

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