Choreography: Russell Maliphant
Reviewer: Peter Jacobs
Russell Maliphant Dance Company was established in 1996. In the intervening years, the company have received two Olivier awards, three South Bank Show awards and three Critics’ Circle National Dance awards for best modern choreography and one for best independent company, amongst many other national and international awards and nominations.
Russell Maliphant’s work is characterised by a “unique approach to flow and energy and an ongoing exploration of the relationship between movement, light and music”. Maliphant has worked closely with pioneering lighting designer Michael Hulls to explore and realise these ideas. Maliphant and Hulls are both Associate Artists of Sadler’s Wells.
Now one of the UK’s leading contemporary choreographers, in April 2018, the Russell Maliphant Dance Company became one of Arts Council England’s National Portfolio Organisations. Although well-established the company appears to be growing in energy and creativity and prominence within the UK dance scene and is currently also Company In Residence at DanceEast in Ipswich.
For Silent LinesMaliphant has worked with Panagiotis Tomaras, collaborating on the lighting design to complement Tomaras’s video projection, which overlays and animates the dancers above and beyond their individual movement. A key element of Silent Linesis the interplay of light and movement and the body, exploring anatomy, psyche and soma, interrogating internal and external worlds on a micro and macro level, seamlessly exploring and interpolating different movement genres.
There are five dancers and Silent Lines sees a fluid exchange of bodies, solo and in combination, unique and yet almost interchangeable, sometimes dissolving through light into one another’s steps. Grace Jabbari, Edd Arnold and Alethia Antonio are especially liquid in a series of solos but Moronfoluwa Odimayo and Will Thomson are no less impressive. Maliphant’s choreography is effortlessly, fluidly hypnotic, reaching and steady in its perpetual motion that examines effervescent and invisible connections, sometimes evoking the whirling, trancelike, ecstatic dance of different global religions.
However, while there is a clear structural arc to the piece there is a lack of variety to Silent Lines. There is a point about a quarter of the way in when the music and movement starts to build to something that generates genuine excitement but this feeling falls away and never returns. Dana Fouras’s sound design – which includes original music by Chopin and Benjamin Godard – doesn’t lack variety but somehow lacks variation of pace or narrative impetus. Despite the quality of the exquisite movement and the impeccable mutability of the dancers, one’s attention drifts and the perpetual trancelike abstraction becomes thin: one wonders what would be left without the projection and the clever and complex lighting design.
Silent Lines is a quality piece of choreography with all human and design elements delivering at a very high level – Stevie Stewart’s costumes, which embody fluid movement and the capture of light are beautiful. But for all its exquisite, questioning sense of exploration and physical and intellectual flux there is something lacking in excitement, momentum and emotional engagement. Beautifully, beautifully dull.
Reviewed on 29 May 2019 | Image: Julian Broad