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Rain – Sadler’s Wells Digital Stage

Reviewer: Maryam Philpott

Choreographer: Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker

Sadler’s Wells Digital Stage initiative continues to broadcast modern gems from its archive and has now released this performance of Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s Rain which appeared at its London venue in 2017. This 70-minutes version, actually filmed in Brussels, reflects the variety and intensity of the production, capturing the exciting choreography as ten performers create a rain cloud that batters and pours until the elemental event exhausts itself in the slower final section.

Recorded in 2016, this performance premiered to an audience of between 600-650 via the Digital Stage Facebook live stream and is available to view for seven days. Dominated by a semi-circular fringed curtain and performed on what looks like a gym-floor with tape markings, designed by Ivo van Hove’s regular collaborator Jan Versweyveld, the changing tone as the shower intensifies and relents is marked tonally by costumes designed by Dries van Norton that take the performers from beige to intense mauve and to white reflecting the mood of De Keersmaerker’s piece.

Right from the start you can see why this piece has been hailed a modern classic with its flurry of movements, shapes and stamina that so perfectly reflect the unrelenting effect of Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians composed in the 1970s. The first stage is light and fast as the dancers embody the pattering rain drops running from one side of the stage to the other, swirling together like a cloud that sways and moves in various directions, acting in unison but also as individuals with fast-moving gestures, leaps, swirls, bends and spins that create a wonderful kind of synchronised chaos.

The tone is jaunty and light, using mirroring between pairs of dancers to create coordination that makes it look improvised, as though each individual is making a personal choice about what to do next, but the movements themselves are precise, feet are pointed or flattened purposefully while the body moves loosely. De Keersmaeker varies this early section with sequences performed in twos and threes, mixing or separating the gender of the dancers as the intensity of the music changes.

In stage two the darkness falls as deep blue light is beamed across the stage. The proximity of the camera focuses on mannequin-like movements as De Keersmaeker’s geometric choreography encourages stiffer limbs and a sharper tone as the shower deepens. The pack try to reabsorb isolated dancers as they sweep across the stage in a line. When colour is introduced into the dancers’ costume it signals a clear shift to the online viewer, the show reaches the eye of the storm and the piano takes over the ongoing beat, taking the tone down a notch.

Here the dance changes, there are more leaps and crouches, the movement itself becomes heavier, thicker somehow despite the speed of it, while knee slides and floor rolls are introduced. For the first time the performers go behind the fringed curtain, creating one of the most visually dramatic and powerfully disruptive moments as they run through it together. Later, lying flat on the floor, a subsection propel themselves into the air, bending their whole bodies, an extraordinary moment of athleticism that’s over in flash.

As the storm plays itself out, the mood changes again, returning to the tonal white and beige as slower more intimate movements replace the freneticism of the early sections. The stamina of dancers Laura Bachman, Léa Dubois, Anika Edström Kawaji, Zoi Efstathiou, Amanda Barrio Charmelo, Laura Maria Poletti, Soa Ratsifandrihana, Frank Gizycki, Robin Haghi, Thomas Vantuycom is amazing given the speed, precision and demands of this complex piece.

Georges-Elie Octors’ musicians are just as impressive, the pace of the music is eyewatering at times, and while there are changes in tone you barely notice them with the merciless pace that skilfully balances percussion, piano, clarinet, violin, cello and singers. Sadler’s Wells Digital Stage is really the next best thing to being there, and while so much British theatre is available online, this is a chance to enjoy the truly international programme of this major dance venue.

Streaming here until 17 April

The Reviews Hub Score

A modern classic

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The Reviews Hub London is under the editorship of John Roberts.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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