Through Gandini Juggling, which he co-founded 30 years ago with his wife and fellow juggler Kati Ylä-Hokkala, Sean Gandini has gradually moved juggling away from the street and the big top to theatre stages, and deepened its connection with dance.
With this homage to Merce Cunningham he achieves the near-perfect symbiosis between the two movement forms, which is to say that, like a few of Cunningham’s own works, Life is not always comfortable viewing: too intricate for the brain fully to absorb, too cold to reach the heart.
One of the most radical innovators of the 20th century, Merce Cunningham discarded music as a structural base to which dancers dance, and concentrated on the pure movement of the body.
In Life, too, it’s a while before we get any kind of sound beyond the thwack of leather balls on hands: random pluckings of viola strings leading to a dissonant cacophony, which clearly aims to replicate the scores of concrete music created for Cunningham by his partner, the composer John Cage.
The hour-long Life starts with a brief lesson on the numerical basis of juggling, with Kati Ylä-Hokkala demonstrating by juggling a growing number of balls as Gandini explains the different rhythms they create.
Then the nine-strong company, barefoot and dressed in blue jeans and plain white T-shirts, start juggling, their eyes on white balls while their bodies create the kind of angular movements and sustained balances that characterise Cunningham’s style.
As well, they create ever more intricate groupings, with changing interactions between individuals in each group, so that balls are unexpectedly thrown and caught obeying mysterious rhythms. Too many dropped balls can perhaps be attributed to first-night nerves, or to the fact that the genesis of Life coincided with lockdown, so that much of its creation was done on Zoom on and off over two years – and how do you perfect split-second interactions on Zoom?
In the second section of Life the jugglers move from balls to blue and green rings, bringing a welcome note of colour to what up to then had been an austere monochrome palette; and more colour still is added in the final section with candy-coloured, glow-in-the-dark clubs.
Life moves towards a finale of controlled anarchy, very much in keeping with previous Gandini Juggling work (think Smashed) but also with Cunningham’s ability, as Gandini puts it, to find 'the right balance between order and chaos. And an unpredictability about what comes next.'
Gandini Juggling’s Life: A Love Letter to Merce Cunningham opened the 2022 London International Mime Festival (LIMF) which runs until Sunday 6 February.
Gandini Juggling performs Life at Sadler's Wells Lilian Baylis Studio on Thursday 13, Friday 14 and Saturday 15 January at 8pm.
|What||Review: Gandini Juggling, Life, LIMF|
|Where||Sadler's Wells, Rosebery Avenue, London, EC1R 4TN | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Angel (underground)|
12 Jan 22 – 15 Jan 22, 20:00 Sat mat 15:00 Dur.: 1 hour no interval
|Price||£12-£20 (+booking fee)|
|Website||Click here to book|