Emanuel Gat Dance: LOVETRAIN2020 – Sadler’s Wells, London

Reviewer: Richard Maguire

Choreographer: Emanuel Gat

Despite the publicity, Emanuel Gat’s LOVETRAIN2020 is no nostalgic journey back into the 1980s. Tears For Fears may provide the soundtrack, but the dance and the costumes are very much of our times. LOVETRAIN2020 is cold and precious (in both senses of the word). The performers dance at a party to which we’ve not been invited. We can only watch from a distance.

That it’s not our party is made clear from the start. Behind narrow openings swirling with dry ice, a celebration is visible. Everyone is dressed in smart clothes as if they are at a classy postmodern party where Greek and Renaissance fashions have been reimagined. One by one the dancers exit the gathering and congregate in a group near the front of the stage, hands held aloof as if they are about to let rip at a 1920s speakeasy. Every element, perfectly in place, promises a dramatic 80 minutes.

But Gat has other ideas. The first songs are Tears For Fears deep cuts, album tracks familiar to only the most devoted fans of the 1980s pop duo. And just as the music gets going, it stops, leaving the performers on stage to dance in silence. The lighting design – also by Gat – is shadowy creating one more barrier between us and the dancers. Only once towards the end do some of the dancers come to the front of the stage, finally fully lit, to hold poses in an elegant tableau.

The choreography of the French company is complex, mixing ballet and contemporary with flashes here and there of Bhangra and Hip-Hop. The performers often freeze like Vogue dancers and hardly ever dance the same steps as each other. They break off in small groups sometimes echoing each other’s moves, albeit a beat or two behind. A few dancers have solos which carry less impact than when all dancers are on stage.

Halfway through the performance, they appear in less clothes and the dance becomes more energetic, but even then, when the more famous songs like Shout and Everybody Wants to Rule the World are played, there’s a restraint that is ultimately frustrating. Only when the Beatles-esque Sowing the Seeds of Love comes on do we have the celebration we thought we were getting.

But even though we are bystanders at this party, there is still much to like. LOVETRAIN2020 is always spectacular to look at and Thomas Bradley’s costumes are truly stunning. The dancers put their all into the performance, but our invite must be lost in the post.

Runs until 18 November 2023

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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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