Boy Breaking Glass ★★★★★
Thursday, 11 October was a very special day for Sadler’s Wells, possibly London’s most vibrant dance house, for it marked the exact 20th anniversary of the unveiling of the current building, which replaced the historic but no longer serviceable former theatre.
To mark the occasion, three choreographers were commissioned to create work at 30 minutes’ duration each, in keeping with Sadler’s Wells mission to present new and challenging dance.
The result, under the umbrella title Sadler’s Wells Reckonings, was a very mixed bag. It kicked off with Julie Cunningham’s m/y. An outstanding dancer, formerly with Merce Cunningham (no relation) and Michael Clark, over the past few years Julie Cunningham has been forging a career as a choreographer.
The field she ploughs is that of gender identity. An out lesbian, m/y advances her look at female bodies, how they see and are seen, how they relate and forge their own identities. Visually, m/y is beautiful. Six barefoot women, including Julie – still a compelling dancer of clean lines and absolute control – wear loose one-piece suits in splashes of cream and smokey blue. Initially lit by hazy cones of light, the stage gradually becomes brighter as the women engage in busy individual dances to a soundscape of grating industrial noise by Nell Catchpole.
Then a sudden calm descends and gradually the women become three couples. their interactions languorous, exploring, giving. At times the erotic charge of this piece is so strong it acquires its own physicality that transcends the limits of the stage.
The episodic nature of m/y is not to everyone’s taste; but despite the fact the work was a little thin for its allocated slot, it held the attention of this reporter for every last one of its 30 minutes.
Which was not the case with BLKDOG, the second piece of the evening from choreographer Botis Seva. The basis of Seva’s choreography is hip hop, but in BLKDOG he is experimenting with pushing the genre’s border to try for a fresher language, capable of telling a story, rather than just communicating a mood.
In this Botis Seva is only partly successful. The first half of his work, with the stage plunged in ominous half-light, sees six bedraggled, hooded dancers first lying motionless, then anxiously scuttling around the stage in ever faster circles. Always earth-bound, they look like a feral street gang, egged on by Torben Lars Sylvest’s pounding score – so intense that as an audience you feel its vibrations in your own body.
This first section is gripping. Somewhere along the line, though, the narrative thread is lost, and the work becomes diffuse and repetitive. A slightly shorter performance slot might have produced a more cohesive piece.
What to say of Boy Breaking Glass, the final work of the evening from Zimbabwe-born, London-trained choreographer Alessandra Seutin? It was certainly ambitious, and it looked good, with a live band perched on a platform at the back, and six energetic dancers clad in flimsy midnight blue costumes. The seventh performer was described as a vocalist, and he paced the stage in a state of apparent bewilderment.
Boy Breaking Glass aspired to be a comment on the condition of black people in societies which are not often accepting. Under bright, sunny lighting, it combined spirited African dance with the language of contemporary dance; but sadly, it got nowhere, although some germs of an idea and a style could be discerned, just.
|What||Sadler's Wells Reckonings Review|
|Where||Sadler's Wells, Rosebery Avenue, London, EC1R 4TN | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Angel (underground)|
11 Oct 18 – 13 Oct 18, 19:30 Dur.: 2 hours 15 mins approx.
|Website||Click here to book via Sadler's Wells website|