Dance Reflections: Neighbours and Dance – Sadler’s Wells, London

Reviewer: Maryam Philpott

Choreographers: Brigel Gjoka, Rauf ‘Rubberlegz’ Yasit, Lucinda Childs

While a number of festivals have succumbed to Covid-related disbandment, Van Cleef & Arples launch their inaugural Dance Reflections mini-season at Sadler’s Wells, Tate Modern and the Royal Opera House featuring 17 performances that celebrate the choreographic art. Opening with two pieces staged in the Studio and main house at Sadler’s Wells, their focus on the body and its many possibilities in both cases becomes a little relentless.

Living side by side with international neighbours is under greater strain than ever so Brigel Gjoka and Rauf ‘Rubberlegz’ Yasit’s first dance feels particularly pertinent. A story of connection, interaction and learning across the chapters of this unusual piece, the choreographers who also perform Neighbours, explore their theme through the fusion of contemporary dance, ballet and movement drawn from their respective Kurdish and Albanian cultural history.

It opens in comedic and often jaunty silent movie style in which, Laurel and Hardy -like, the pair considers the extent and possibilities of their physicality without any musical accompaniment. Focused on the interlocking opportunities of joints – wrists, knees, elbows and ankles – the dancers contort, flex and respond to one another, most notably Yasit whose ability to assume acrobatic shapes is impressive.

Later, music is slowly introduced composed by Rusan Filiztek and performed by Accord Croisés that brings with it tonal shifts of conflict and challenge but also reconciliation and partnership. A little repetitive across the 60-minutes and eventually feeling overlong, nonetheless, Neighbours offers interesting themes and stylistic choices.

Moving to the main stage for the second of the evening’s double bill, Lucinda Childs’ Dance is also interested in the shape, movement and possibility of the performer. Its unique selling point is the projection of black and white film onto a screen which plays a pre-recorded version of the same dance being performed live by the 17-strong company – a feat in itself given the almost continual movement and precision required to match the projection exactly.

Image: Jaime Roque DeLa Cruz

Playing with film editing, Childs segments the stage, sometimes overlaying the image so it almost obscures the real-life dancers behind it and at others projecting at the top, bottom or sides of the screen. This combination of ghostly echo dancers and the reality being performed behind by almost the same Company in exactly the same white outfits makes for quite the spectacle, particularly as the camera is showing a greater variety of angles having placed the camera above the floor and at lower angles to create drama.

Yet it is another relentless piece that across three phases employs the same short sequences of choreography repeated again and again. Combined with Philip Glass’ music which has a bubbly fairground meets organ music persistence, over its hour-long performance, the intensity and seeming endlessness of the soundscape begins to wear you down and like the torture scene in A Clockwork Orange or Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy you might crack and give up your comrades to make it stop.,

The first performances in Dance Reflections prove a contrasting evening performed with gusto by two very different companies yet offering exactly the mix of scale and inventiveness you’d expect from a festival.

Runs until 10 March 2022

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The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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