Choreographer: Russell Maliphant
Traditional Greek dance meets modern movement in this sleekly realised piece first seen at Sadler’s Wells last year. 18 dancers shuffling in a line and forming a thread that loops in circles across the stage shouldn’t be so entertaining but there’s something inherently reassuring about the constant to and fro of the movement, like waves lapping onto an island’s shore.
This comforting rhythm doesn’t just come from the dancers’ feet, or their arms, which shear in the air like propellers, but also from the music by Vangelis, the Greek composer, who won an Oscar for the score to Chariots of Fire. His electronic music is easy to sway to and in its quieter moments it soothes likes a rocking cradle in twilight.
Theseus used a thread to help him escape the Minotaur’s labyrinth but Maliphant suggests that the thread is a more universal symbol than for the Greeks alone, and that the thread could easily represent our humanity as it runs through history, sometimes taut and at other times loose. And we see these variations in the thread’s tension as the dancers intertwine in the first part of the show.
Indeed, these ensemble pieces are so good it’s a little disappointing that other scenes, all short and lasting only a few minutes, feature smaller variations of dancers. Dancing in pairs or trios, performers mirror each other from different parts of the stage. The camera work can be quite unforgiving in places, and any errors in synchronicity are there for the viewer at home to see. The audience in the theatre would not be granted such intimacy.
In traditional Greek dancing it’s the men who are the peacocks and in the most energetic parts of The Thread the performers are joined by two older male dancers who stun the audience with the speed of their footwork, and the flicks and the swoops of their hands and feet. These sections receive their own applause and become so exciting that the other parts, despite being beautifully danced, are in danger of being sideshows.
Under Michael Hulls’ lighting design, The Thread is danced at the edge of the world somewhere, with dancers appearing and vanishing in the darkness that moves across the stage like fog. At other times, the floor seems to be lit from underneath and the symmetry of these blue squares only adds to the persistent ebb and flow of the music.
Of course, these streaming services can’t quite replicate the experience of being in the theatre but watching the premiere broadcast on Facebook last night at 7.30pm an unexpected community formed. As the show continues, you are allowed to make comments and discuss what you are seeing right there and then; a conversation that in real life usually has to wait until the show has finished. In amongst the 1,000 or so viewers last night, were fans, of course, but also some of the dancers themselves, making the performance feel nearer to hand. By the end of the 75-minute show our comments had formed another thread.
Available here until 24 April 2020