MaliphantWorks – The Print Room, London

Director / Choreographer: Russell Maliphant
Reviewer: Maryam Philpott

It’s a curious thing to revisit a role many years later; often it’s partly nostalgia for a happier time, partly a sense of unfinished business, and partly perhaps a test of a performer’s ability to still deliver years on. Kenneth Branagh may have given five Hamlets (four on stage and one on film) but it’s still a rarity, which is why Russell Maliphant’s anthology at the Print Room in Notting Hill with the original dancers is such a meaningful experience.

This evening of contemporary dance by the renowned choreographer offers four short dance pieces that last for 10 or 15 minutes. The oldest is celebrating its twentieth anniversary while the most recent was first performed in 2012. Maliphant claims this work has been selected to ‘compliment and juxtapose well with this environment’ but also as an experiment in ‘the physically evolving experience of age’ contrasting the performances then and now.

It beings in the backstage Studio space which due to limited seating means the audience is segregated into orange and green tickets, each seeing this 10-minute piece in shifts. Tiring though it may be for the dancers, Wall (The Rodin Project) is the most recent of the dances performed by Dickson Mbi and Tommy Franzen. The piece itself plays with perspective as the dancers athletically twist and contort their bodies to make walls the floor, or slide on Es Devlin and Bronia Housman’s geometric ramp-based set. For much of the dance they are synchronised but never actively block or help one another, but as they move around one another, the support and physical connection builds between them. The lightness of the movement combined with almost impossible contortions becomes a hallmark of Maliphant’s work which the rest of the evening will showcase.

As the full audience is reunited in the main auditorium, Maliphant himself performs One Part II which replaces the billed Unspoken withdrawn due to injury. Spotlit from behind, Maliphant is half concealed in silhouette for the early part of a dance that mixes flowing movements with rapid changes of height as he squats and reaches into elongated poses. Using Sinfonia No 11 and Parita No 1 played by Glen Gould, Maliphant’s movements match the expressive lightness of Bach’s composition.

Two was originally performed in 1997 and dancer Dana Fouras’ return to this work feels as fresh and exciting as it must have done two decades ago. Held within a project square of light, Fouras barely moves her feet, this is a dance that is expressed almost entirely through the movement of the arms, flexing and stretching, swirling and twisting as though trapped. The most vibrant piece of the night, its slow start builds to an incredible speed as Fouras skilfully suggests so much with the slight and powerful movements.

A sense of entrapment also feeds into the final piece, performed by Daniel Proietto whose story suggests the momentary release of a music box ballerina able to briefly taste freedom before returning to confinement. Afterlight (Part One) was premiered in 2009 and retains a lyrical sadness beautifully expressed by Proietto’s flowing and graceful movements, combined with Michael Hulls and Jan Urbanowski’s stunning lighting design and projection that turns the floor into a series of rolling clouds and waves that add emphasis to the choreography as well as a building drama.

If you’re in the second sitting for Wall then the entire show is around an hour long so arguably there is space to include a couple more to give the audience more time to understand the connection between the dances and the effects of revisiting a performance years later. But MaliphantWorks is an evening of dance about the search for self in a world that wants to confine us, and while many of the works chosen are more than a decade old, they still feel particularly relevant today.

Runs until 11 March 2017 | Image: Johan Persson

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