This particular DU17 event provides the chance to see three very different international acts, followed by a live band. First off were the Spanish dance duo Ven. La Macana is a fiercely intense physical work danced with a casual ease. At first it lacks a sense of performance but the chemistry between Caterina Varela and Alexis Fernandez evolves as the piece progresses. The relentless stream of lifts and throws is complex, leaving them both breathless before extended periods of stillness and uncomfortable starring.
The timing is a crucial element here with the jumping on the hands and stomach a recurring motif. Fernandez discards his shoes, jumps, Varela simultaneously dropping to the floor so he lands on her palms. Although at times bizarre, the flow of the choreography is very watchable, together with the remarkable mutual trust the two clearly share.
The evening is topped and tailed with dynamic duos. Asha Thomas, a former member of Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre and Yinka Esi Graves, a British born Flamenco dancer, create a powerful performance in Clay. The work explores their collective memories in order to create a unique language between them.
These two have a likeable connection, sharing knowing glances and broad smiles throughout. Thomas’ sensual style combined with Graves’ delicate placement and beautiful lines, is a successful combination. There is synchronised choreography featuring fast flamenco feet and then more sombre, reflective solos.
The dancers are partnered by flamenco guitarist Guillermo Guillen, who provides a sensitive accompaniment.
Yinka Esi Graves, Guillermo Guillen, Asha Thomas, DU17 Out of the System, photo Pari Naderi
Sandwiched between the two duets is Sello Pesa’s After Tears. It is by far the most challenging work to unravel and may have proved too much for some audience members new to dance. Pesa is a charismatic performer; however After Tears suffers from a lengthy setup that is hard to engage with, as ten minutes are spent on yoga stretches and lying atop a carpet on which he sleeps.
The piece explores the mourning process and strategies for coping with death, from the still and self-reflective to the aggressive and frenzied. Music and local ads blast from the kitchen radio that sits centre stage, a constant reminder of the passing of time.
At one point Pesa wraps himself in the carpet and lays still for a disturbingly long time. The audience exchange concerned glances. As the piece finishes he invites six audience members on stage to share a beer, but instructs them that they must spill the beer on him. The result is as messy as one would expect.
In an original twist, these performances are followed up by live music, much to the delight of the Rich Mix audience. On this particular evening, entertainment was provided by Afrobeat band Yaaba Funk. Opoku Addaie is such a fan of their work they even played at his wedding! He describes them as “a groove machine that leaves not a stationary soul in sight”. Tuesday (17th October) will see multicultural musicians Kioko take to the stage.
Taken together, the work on show is likeable and thought-provoking, but the end-to-end viewer experience for the dance pieces is a little disjointed – these accomplished artists deserve a slicker production.
Out of the System, part of a three year project from London’s Dance Umbrella Festival, runs at Rich Mix 16-17 October. www.danceumbrella.co.uk
If you want to follow up by meeting DU17 artists and discussing the overall Out of the System programme, there will be a one-off panel discussion in Studio Wayne McGregor in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park on 18th October at 7 pm.
Admission to the panel discussion is free for Out of the System ticket holders (remember to bring your ticket as proof of purchase!); £5 for on-ticket holders.
|What||DU17, Out of the System Review|
|Where||Rich Mix, 35-47 Bethnal Green Road, London, E1 6LA | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Shoreditch High Street (overground)|
16 Oct 17 – 17 Oct 17, 19:30 Dur 3 hours Live Bands at 21:45
|Website||Click here to book via the DU website|