Premiered in 1979, Dance was the American dancer and choreographer’s first major show. A work of uncompromising purity, it meticulously follows every subtle nuance and shifting pattern of Philip Glass’s specially commissioned minimalist score, so that you can see the music in the bodies of 17 white-clad dancers, the audience’s two senses, sight and hearing, completely fusing. You see the music, hear the dance.
This is dance stripped to its most basic components. The dancers perform behind a scrim, on which at intervals a video by the visual artist Sol LeWitt – also an exponent of American minimalism – is projected. LeWitt shot a film of the dance, and then cut, layered and floated it above the live performance. The dancers in Sol LeWitt's film, featuring Lucinda Childs herself, appear to flit through the live performers.
Dance is divided into three parts, the central one a female solo, parts one and three scored for two groups of eight dancers each.
The movements are simple, flowing and repetitive. For the first sequence, perfectly synchronised couples that never touch glide across the stage in a sequence of chassés and temps levés, one couple entering from the side where the other has just exited, in a mesmerising continuum of movement. They form what Lucinda Childs herself described as a flow into which you want to slip.
Sol LeWitt’s film has impressive depth, so that it appears to superimpose a virtual chequered stage onto the real one, and the numbers of dancers are doubled but still show split-second coordination.
As Philip Glass introduces subtle modifications into his continuum of music, so Childs’ choreography incorporates new steps: a soft turn, a low jeté.
In Part Two, two women appear to dialogue: a flesh-and-blood dancer and the young Lucinda on film. This has the feel of a prolonged, relaxed walkabout, the dancers’ arms swinging, a sequence of hops and skips repeating itself.
Part Three carries more vigour and more complex choreography, never losing the flow. There are now more jumps, more balletic fouettés accompanying the crescendo of the music.
Throughout the dancers of Lyon Opera Ballet were impeccable, their exhilarating performances absolutely embodying the mesmerising nature of the work.
The cherry on the cake was an appearance by Lucinda Childs herself, who took a bow with the dancers at curtain call.
On the way out, a young audience member, obviously new to this work, was heard describing it approvingly as 'very trippy'. Somehow, that seemed totally appropriate.
|What||Lucinda Childs/Philip Glass, Dance review|
|Where||Sadler's Wells, Rosebery Avenue, London, EC1R 4TN | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Angel (underground)|
09 Mar 22 – 10 Mar 22, 20:30. Dur.: 1 hour
|Website||Click here to book|