Wilton’s inspiration for his current work, The Storm, performed by James Wilton Dance at The Place prior to an extensive tour, is the now almost obligatory reference point for choreographers of contemporary dance: science. Wayne McGregor has been mining science for a long time, lately having used the mapping of his own genome as the basis forAutobiography; Alexander Whitley used cosmology in 8 Minutes; Tom Dale considered virtual reality in I INFINITE… and so on.
For The Storm James Wilton considers the parallels between the effects of the wind and mental illness; and the work credits Dr David Belin as a Scientific Advisor.
The starting point for The Storm is laid out in the programme notes: 'you can’t see the wind, but you can see how it changes objects. You can’t see mental health, but you can see how it changes people.'
As the lights go up on a bare stage, three friends (Norikazu Aoki, Ihsaan De Banya and Sarah Jane Taylor) are sitting on the ground having a seemingly inconsequential everyday conversation. Suddenly the soundtrack – electro-rock (Amarok/Michal Wojtas) – becomes loud, violent, threatening. The lights dim. Four dancers burst in, a storm in both its physical form and its mental equivalent.
Two of the three friends are affected. It’s up to the third, Ihsaan De Banya, to help them for as long as they need to recover.
James Wilton’s choreographic language blends standard contemporary dance moves with contact work, acrobatics, martial arts and break dancing. The result is often exhilarating physical dancing, which his company perform with tremendous gusto and technical ability.
With the floor a constant reference point, there is much whirling and swirling and turning, representing both the wind and mental turmoil; cartwheels and legs high up in the air for the upside down world caused by storms and mental illness; the electronic soundtrack crashing and thumping and occasionally overlaying guitar plangent riffs reminiscent of 1970s concept rock. Think Brian May or David Gilmour.
As the woman affected by mental illness Sarah Jane Taylor is particularly effective, her face marked by a frown of incomprehension as, her right arm taken by a violent tremor, she looses control of her body and her mind.
Norikasu Aoki uses the floor to great effect to denote his deepening depression; as the friend who accompanies them in their voyage back to health, Ihsaan De Banya (a veteran of the Richard Alston Dance Company) is suitably caring, particularly in the very physical duets.
Here’s the thing, though: The Storm has no emotional grip. The dancing is spectacular enough, but there is no narrative arc, no development to involve the audience and take them on a journey. Once the storm takes over, nothing evolves, and the same images recur time and time again. Part 2 after the interval is just more of the same, leading to an intriguing denouement that involves the protagonists seemingly restored to health after being showered with ticker tape.
|What||James Wilton Dance, The Storm Review|
|Where||The Place, 17 Duke's Road, London, WC1H 9PY | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Euston (underground)|
23 Nov 18 – 24 Nov 18, 19:30 Dur.: 1 hour and 40 mins inc one interval
|Price||£17 (concessions £13)|
|Website||Click here to book via The Place|