In a programme note, the choreographer lists some of the tragedies which have taken place in the four years since he became a father, among them the Grenfell Tower fire, the killing of George Floyd, the Black Lives Matter movement, and of course the COVID-19 lockdown, during which, spurred by anger, he decided to rework BLKDOG.
What he has came up with is a fully rounded 60-minute work, the stylish aesthetic of which never dilutes its powerful contents, but rather enhances it. Tom Visser’s lighting design works with a dark, smoky stage, where he creates pools of subdued light by means of strategically placed spotlights and a battery of dim yellow lights upstage. He simultaneously creates an atmosphere and directs the eye to the right place.
Ryan Dawson-Laight’s stone-coloured costumes look like padded boiler suits, the dancer’s heads encased in hooded caps, evoking the comfort of childhood.
Torben Lars Sylvest’s muscular score is a marvel of eloquence. Based on the thumping, highly syncopated beats of hip hop, it nevertheless includes a large range of tonalities and moods, as well as seamlessly accommodating the spoken word.
Most touching is the recurrence of a crystalline child’s voice, asking ‘daddy, will you read me a story?’ and further on stating with heart-breaking innocence, ‘life doesn’t frighten me at all.’
As part of a collective, the seven dancers of Botis Seva’s Far From the Norm (three women and four men) have collaborated in the creation of BLKDOG and on stage they absolutely own the work. With their varied specialities, from krumping to popping, breaking to house, they and the choreographer have devised a stye uniquely suited to the story they want to tell.
As the curtain goes up on a dim stage, we see them sitting hunched under a low ceiling, and immediately the thought ‘oppression’ comes into your head. As the ceiling slowly rises, so they, too, move; but for the first part of the piece they scuttle around continuously in a crouch, a movement which is to recur through the piece.
They rise, only to fall down, again and again; and the intensity of the work increases as they krump and break their way into short scenes, some graphic, some merely invoking a mood. There’s no equivocation in the scenes of murder and physical violence: one man is suffocated to death, another shot. We all know what they reference. In each case there is a moment of quiet, desperate lamentation as a figure cradles the dead man.
Some scenes have an orgiastic feel, as the collective engages in a seemingly uncontrollable crescendo. They take their tops off, as if claiming their freedom.
Then a sudden quiet descends on the stage. The dancers remove their caps and stand motionless in line before us, silently, their frenzied existence having led to a final moment of acceptance.
And for a stunned moment the audience communes in that silence, before erupting into a well deserved standing ovation.
Post-show talk on Saturday 20 November
|What||Review: Botis Seva, BLKDOG|
|Where||Sadler's Wells, Rosebery Avenue, London, EC1R 4TN | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Angel (underground)|
19 Nov 21 – 20 Nov 21, 19:30 Dur.: 1 hour 10 mins no interval
|Price||£20-£25 (+booking fee)|
|Website||Click here to book|