An hour-long breathless feat of juggling and dancing, Spring is the third and final part of what juggler Sean Gandini describes as his ‘trilogy of flirtations with dance’; and after an underwhelming part two, it feels great to be able to report that Gandini Juggling are back on form.
In the first part of this trilogy – 4 x 4 Ephemeral Architectures, which premiered in 2015 – juggling and classical ballet were placed in dialogue; in the second part, Sigma (2018), juggling and India’s bharatanatyam dance talked to us in the audience but not so much to each other.
What is so different and striking about part three, Spring, is that juggling and contemporary dance become each other.
Spring is so clever it would make your head hurt if it weren’t at the same time so joyous, exhilarating and transporting. A seamless production, it combines the considerable talents of director Sean Gandini, contemporary choreographer Alexander Whitley, composer Gabriel Prokofiev, and lighting designer Guy Hoare. And, of course, the talents of a remarkable cast of nine dancers and jugglers.
So remarkable and versatile are this cast that often you simply can’t separate dancers from jugglers: dancers juggle; jugglers move with balletic elegance and fluidity.
The piece is about life and colour and joy – spring, in short – but its progression until the final explosion of colourful juggling is gradual and meticulously measured.
The cast come on to a bare stage with a white backcloth, dressed in loose pants and tops in tones of silver-grey (costumes by Lydia Cawson). Seven line up on the right-hand-side of the stage facing another on the left, both framing one dancer centre stage. The dancer executes a solo containing many of Whitley’s trademark movements – earthbound, eating up space, a leg swinging into attitude en arrière with upper body leaning forward – while the lines on either side juggle white rings simultaneously whispering a count to 100.
This is a subtle nod to Sean Gandini’s fascination with mathematics and the precise mathematical calculations that go into the organisation of his juggling numbers.
From this deceptively simple beginning, mind-boggling permutations of dancing and juggling – with rings, balls or clubs, standing, lying on the floor, moving or static – succeed each other and create a tableaux with an unexpectedly wide range of moods; from humorous to lyrical and everything in between. If we wanted to nitpick (we don’t, really!) we would say that the sequences with clubs are perhaps the least accomplished, less fluent and engaging than everything else.
They dance/juggle to Gabriel Prokofiev’s atmospheric score, which is remarkable in many ways, not least in that it doesn’t attract attention to itself to the detriment of the performance, nor does it fade into the background. You are very aware of it, but as an inseparable part of a complex whole.
The same goes for the lighting, which starts off as plain white light, but as the show goes on gradually morphs into a variety of colours. Ever moodier, they too at one point join in the dancing. In one of just a few spoken interludes, two of the cast stand downstage enumerating a wide variety of colours in a prelude to an extraordinarily intricate number with coloured rings.
The finale is a dazzling mix of colour and precision, but no spoilers here. We’ll just say that you’re more than likely to leave the theatre happy and energised; and so, we can’t wait for the chance to see Spring again at its official premiere early next year.
NOTE: Age guidance 8+
|What||Gandini/Whitley, Spring, Sadler's Wells|
|Where||Sadler's Wells, Rosebery Avenue, London, EC1R 4TN | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Angel (underground)|
31 Jan 19 – 02 Feb 19, 19:30 Dur.: 1 hour
|Website||Click here to book via Sadler's Wells website|