The set is a room with a mattress, a few movable rails heavy with clothes and colourful neon bars, which more than providing light are there to help build an atmosphere.
Dancer Adrienne O’Leary, with her long dark hair and winning smile, leads us into each of Velvet Petal’s three sections with a short speech that seeks to determine a focus for each: History – is there a key moment that determines the course of History? Photography – do photographers wait for ‘the decisive moment’ when the composition is just right? and finally A Photograph of Myself – does it show ‘me’ or instead obscure the real me?
In reality, the dancing that ensues is only loosely connected to the ostensive themes. No matter: it is energetic, exhilarating dancing, cleverly choreographed to appear spontaneous, but in reality tightly constructed, and beautifully executed.
Twelve dancers occupy the stage, and although seldom working all together, they’re still very much a cohesive ensemble. There’s a lot going on at any given time: if you take your eyes away from centre-stage, in the margins all manner of interesting things are happening.
The choreographic language, jerking and twerking, preening and posing, is at times reminiscent of the Michael Clark’s 1980s punk heyday; the set and references to Mapplethorpe and Smith take us back to the New York of Andy Warhol, his Factory, and the artists and wannabes who gravitated towards it in search of themselves and their 15 minutes of fame. This was indeed a key moment in the West’s cultural history and Fleur Darkin is a worthy heir to all the possibilities it uncovered.
The score, arranged by Torben Lars Sylvest, aggregates some of punk and rock’s famous names including Patti Smith; as well as Leonard Cohen’s epoch-making Tower of Song, which provides an unexpected but highly atmospheric adage bed to an intensely sexual sequence, where people pair off eagerly, sensuously exploring each other’s bodies.
Velvet Petal lasts about 60 minutes, and given its raw energy and creativity would by itself have made for a hugely satisfying evening.
However, Darkin was keen to share her love for the electronic compositions of the Serb musician Abul Mogard; and the evening starts with a 30 minute set of his music against the background of projections by Marja de Sanctis.
If you are an electronic geek, no doubt you’ll be interested – inspired even! – by Mogard’s piece. If you’re not, you may find yourself slightly discommoded by its elongated, often shrill notes evolving into overpowering engine noise; while your eyes are assaulted by the large-scale, fast moving abstract collection of pixels on the backcloth for what feels like a very long time.
Regardless, Velvet Petal itself is just the thing to jolt us awake and colour us happy after a long somnolent summer for dance in London.
Age Guidance: 16+
|What||Review: Scottish Dance Theatre, Velvet Petal|
|Where||Purcell Room, Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, SE1 8XX | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Waterloo (underground)|
31 Aug 18 – 01 Sep 18, 20:00 Dur.: 2 hours approx
|Price||£20 (+ £3 booking fee)|
|Website||Click here to book via the Southbank website|