Bruno Beltrão/Grupo de Rua: New Creation – Sadler’s Wells, London

Reviewer: Scott Matthewman

Choreographer: Bruno Beltrão

Brazilian choreographer Bruno Beltrão and his company, Grupo de Rua, are deeply aware that his home country has been in the grip of right-wing authoritarianism for some time. Jair Bolsonaro may have been defeated in last month’s general election (a result he is contesting), but the populist movement he spearheaded has not gone away.

The choreographer’s latest work, New Creation, asks the question of how one can keep moving in a world where hatred seems to suffocate freedom and solidarity. At least, it purports to: for there’s not a huge amount of storytelling going on to let the audience in on what the company is thinking.

The piece opens on what passes for pastoral idyll in an urban sprawl, with leaf blowers and birdsong intermingling with the sound of traffic and construction. It’s a gentle start, but as the mime techniques get more and more abstract, the sense of place dissipates rapidly.

What follows are a series of set pieces that start and end on their own schedule, quite separate from the occasionally haunting, often dissonant score. And it’s here that the thematic elements really struggle to make themselves known. Several sequences involve the entire company walking around the stage in a variety of postures – crouching with straight backs, curved into convex shapes, and more. Individual performers occasionally inherit styles from people they meet or change for other reasons. Maybe non-conformity is the point, but there is a lack of cogency as well, which dilutes any meaning.

Matters aren’t helped by generally low light levels that, even when small areas of the stage are brightly illuminated in contrast, act to obscure much of the company’s work. One can’t help feeling that the large Sadler’s Wells stage also acts against this work – perhaps a smaller, more intimate setting would help form a connection between audience and performer that is missing here.

As the hour progresses, one gets an inkling of unrest, as the dancers appear to act aggressively towards invisible foes and, occasionally, each other. But without a sense of who that aggression is really aimed at, and the cause for the change in mood, it struggles to add anything to the sense of a common theme.

Beltrão’s work is often described as a fusion of hip-hop and contemporary dance, and while that’s still true, anybody hoping to see large sections of breakdancing or other street dance styles may be disappointed. Instead, this is a dance company that has so successfully merged two formerly disparate dance subgenres that there no longer is any difference. That’s an undoubtedly accomplished feat – it’s just a shame that it has not, in this case, led to anything approaching clarity.

Continues until 23 November 2022

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  1. Saw this yesterday at Sadlers, it was a weak piece indeed. Lots of abstract gestures with no coherent meaning. At least it was 60min only, longer than that not sure I could have endured.

  2. A finely written review giving the piece more leniency than I feel inclined to do.

    It was the worst price of dance I have ever seen at Sadlers Wells.

    I could make out no narrative thread or themes; who were the people walking with backwardly arching backs?

    The lack of any narrative clarity wasn’t offset by the dancing, of which there wasn’t very much. Sure, there were flashes of dancing, but also a lot of walking about.

    The lighting was horrendous. I was baffled that anyone had seen it and thought ‘Yeah, that’ll do.’

    They were quite right not to risk an interval, I fear many would have chosen the convivial delights of a drink with their friends than more of whatever that was.

    The dancers themselves were good. They need to work with another choreography.

    I generally like things, and I thought it was terrible.

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