Russell Maliphant is one of the leading choreographers working today. His own unmistakable dance language has established a bridge between classical ballet and modern physical expression.
Integral to the visual impact of his work has been Michael Hulls’ lighting design. In Hull’s hands light becomes one key element of dance itself; his characteristic boxes and shafts of light going beyond providing a frame for steps and performers. They engage in a vibrant dialogue with them.
The two have now been collaborating for 20 years, in the process changing the landscape of modern dance and stagecraft.
To celebrate this special anniversary, the Russell Maliphant Company in collaboration with Sadler’s Wells, where both Maliphant and Hulls are Associate Artists, have put together a special programme of four works, old and new.
First off is a welcome surprise: an opportunity to see a group 11 outstanding dancers from Munich’s Bayerisches Staatsballett in Spiral Pass, created on them last year. The piece is build around a principal couple framed by an ensemble of five men and three women, and they perform it as if they’d been dancing Maliphant all their lives.
Much of Maliphant’s choreography relies on opposing and attracting centres of energy and tension and so it is in Spiral Pass. The dancers, in grey ensembles – lighter tops, darker soft pants - move within Hull’s characteristic lighting devices, crouching, lifting, facing off in ever shifting groups.
It’s by no means a perfect piece and its middle section sags a little; but these dancers are well worth viewing.
Then comes Broken Fall, Maliphant’s first ever piece for the Covent Garden stage created in 2003 and drawing on the complementary strengths of the original BalletBoyz, Michael Nunn and William Trevitt, and the inimitable Sylvie Guillem.
Then it was a mesmerising work, the worthy winner of the Olivier Award Best Dance Production in 2004.
Alas, it hasn’t stood the test of time, nor does it the present cast lift it anywhere near the heights of the original.
More interesting are the two new pieces: a short solo for Maliphant’s veteran dancer, Dana Fouras, “both, and.” We say solo, but in reality, through the clever combination of lighting and a transparent screen set in the proscenium, Fouras, dances with her own shadow, her movement, inspired by Indian classical dance, projecting a twin dancing shadow on the screen.
Finally, the best piece of the evening, Piece No. 43 for five of Maliphant’s own dancers.
Here dancers strike poses reminiscent of ancient Greek statues, before engaging In the choreographer’s trademark slow movement, the drag of limbs extending through the air and creating a dream-like, at times mesmerising, atmosphere.
The middle section, to the Andante from Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, is particularly affecting, with two men contained in their rectangles of light, while upstage three woman reach up to the sky in slow undulating movements that convey unspecified yearning.
Whether it’s a good idea to sandwich a movement from such a well-known classical piece between bouts of heavy-duty electronic music is a matter of opinion…
Be warned: this is a long evening and at times actually feels a lot longer than it should. It clearly illustrates the strengths of Russell Maliphant’s work and style, although it also rather mercilessly exposes some of his weaknesses, predictability being one of them.
|What||Conceal | Reveal: Russell Maliphant Company, Sadler's Wells|
|Where||Sadler's Wells, Rosebery Avenue, London, EC1R 4TN | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Angel (underground)|
26 Nov 15 – 28 Nov 15, 19:30 Pre-show Director's Conversation Sat. 18:00
|Website||click here to book via the Sadler's Wells website|