Review: Wild Card InvitesThe Palest Light - Lilian Baylis Studio, Sadler's Wells

Performance: 3 & 4 March 2016
Reviewed by Sarah Kent - Tuesday 8 March 2016

Wild Card invites The Palest Light. Lilian Baylis Studio, Sadler's Wells. Photo: Camilla Greenwell

Wild Card, Sadler’s Wells bespoke evenings curated by a new generation of dance makers, returned with The Palest Light, an evening of performance curated by Pepa Ubera that was a good-natured, laid back affair. Ubera’s experience of curating performances for the East London based TripSpace (2013-15) prompted her to try to reduce the separation between audiences and performers. “I want,” she explains, “to create collective experiences that empower the individual, challenge the idea of participation and highlight the context they exist in.” With this in mind, she replaced the theatre’s raked seating with floor cushions, deck chairs and pot plants to help create the atmosphere of a picnic or garden party.

Berlin based dancer Alice Chauchat then moved everyone into a semicircle to provide enough room to explore Togethering. Speaking apparently spontaneously, she discussed a concept she called hospitality – coming together in a collective space for a shared experience. Taking off her boots, she danced The Dance of Companionship “to keep myself company.” As she danced, sometimes on tip toe and with odd angular movements, she ruminated on various topics obliquely related to the encounter between an audience and performer including support, companionship and sharing.

She then asked us “to send the dance”, by focusing our thoughts; her response to this collective transference scarcely differed from the previous dance, but no-one seemed surprised since, with an audience of 95 people, the experiment was more akin to a poetic aspiration than a serious proposition. “We could all be assistants with no assigned director… We could help each other to become hosts,” Chauchat concluded optimistically.

Using gongs, bells, Himalayan and crystal bowls, Marco Florio then relaxed us with a soothing sound bath. In Health-E, Deniz Unal encouraged us to find a partner with whom to share intimacies such as kissing cheeks, licking eye lashes and tickling each other’s tummies with our hair. These experiments engendered gales of laughter, which made it hard to hear the spiel about supposed health benefits being read out by an audience member.

The evening closed with Pepa Ubera and Chilean dancer Josefina Camus performing Ellipsis Land to a crackling electronic soundtrack by Simone Salvatici. Lying face down on the floor, the pair were filmed by an overhead camera; you could watch their jerky attempts to rise in the flesh projected onto a large screen where they appeared to be floating in zero gravity, legs dangling helplessly like puppets. After much superhuman kicking, shoving and gyrating they managed to get onto their sides and, eventually, onto their feet.

With the lights brightened and the camera switched off, they began a dysfunctional duet that used the whole space but, with its robotic jerking, shuffling, skipping, pushing and elbowing, resembled a sparring match rather than a collaboration. Abruptly, the pair left the space and the lights went out as waves of loud electronic noise sounded the alarm. Was this Armageddon? The pair returned to illuminate details of the interior with flashlight beams – lights, trunking, switches, cables – as though to break the spell and return us to undesirable reality. A weird mixture of the mundane and the melodramatic, this strange coda felt unnecessarily abrupt and apocalyptic but nobody seemed to mind.

The next Wild Card features dotdotdot dance
26 May, Lilian Baylis Studio, Sadler’s Wells

Best known as an art critic, Sarah Kent began writing about dance for The Arts Desk in 2012, only stopping recently when she was invited to serve on the dance panel of the Olivier Awards. A keen dancer herself, she brings a fresh perspective to the role of commentator.

Photos: Camilla Greenwell

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