Review: Wild Card - dotdotdot dance - Lilian Baylis Studio

Performance: 26 & 27 May 2016
Reviewed by Josephine Leask - Friday 27 May 2016

Wild Card - dotdotdot dance. Photo: Carole Edrich

Dotdotdot dance create bespoke flamenco for their Wild Card performance at the Lilian Baylis Studio, Sadler’s Wells. There’s something in their unravelling of the flamenco solo that will appeal to everyone, whether it is their focus on shoes, dress or the dance itself. Three dancers, Magdalena Mannion, Yinka Esi Graves and Noemi Luz, originally trained in ballet, contemporary and jazz but whose shared passion is flamenco, meticulously examine three different traditional flamenco styles: Peteneras, Guajiras and Tarantos.

The women collaborate with an eclectic line-up of performers, musicians, singer and a performance poet to explore the characteristics, essence and mood of the flamenco styles. Each performer ‘undoes’ or examines flamenco techniques – stamping, gestures, clapping, singing, guitar music – and then reassembles these elements to create flamenco that encompasses both the experimental with the more traditional. Cellist Colin Alexander plays scratchy, discordant Solos and echoes which reflects the raucous harshness of some flamenco song, while Toni Stuart’s undulating voice delivers poetry (in a mixture of rap and singing) in waves of sensuous verses about women’s bodies in Sleepwalking. She captures the powerful sexuality of the flamenco dancer’s body, with its mixture of aggressive angularity and melting fluidity, its sharp points and smooth circles.

Other collaborators include the more traditional flamenco singer, Emilio Florido and guitarist Liam Howarth who delve deep into experimental renditions of flamenco song and music throughout the show. They are central along with the dancers in providing grounding reference points – the more familiar characteristics of flamenco that make it such a riveting style.

Flamenco shoes dominate the evening. They hang suspended from the ceiling, there’s a voice-over of personal reflections about shoes created from interviews recorded pre-show with members of the audience. The women in one piece use shoes as a weapon, throwing them at each other across the stage, or stagger around wearing un-matching ones.

The dancers work on solo extracts, isolating flamenco moves then slipping into an athletic, earthy contemporary dance, morphing held linear postures with softer circular ones. While conflicting passions are usually emotions which inspire flamenco, Tarantos is arranged around accessories: shoes and a traditional, long flamenco skirt. Pairs of matching shoes are bundled up in the dancers’ dresses and then arranged carefully on a piece of material, which Mannion subtly slips into. As she walks with the dignity and concealed effort of a traditional flamenco dancer, weighted down by the shoes and the heavy train of fabric, she produces an image that is both surreal and quirky – qualities which give dotdotdot its charm.

Although the evening is drawn out too long and some of the individual performances seem disconnected and detract away from the charismatic essence of flamenco, dotdotdot’s interrogations are intelligent, refreshing and compelling to watch. When the group perform altogether and build towards a climax of stamping, clapping music and song, the dancers thrill through their obvious love and understanding of this form.

Continues at Lilian Baylis Studio, Sadler’s Wells until Friday 27 May

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.

Photos: Carole Edrich

Wild Card is a Sadler’s Wells series in which a new generation of dance artists are invited to curate special evenings and showcase their work.

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