Reviewer: Richard Maguire
The Wild Card series at the Lilian Baylis Studio at Sadler’s Wells never fails to surprise. On these nights the studio space is given over to emerging dance-makers, who, in turn, bring along their collaborators. As curators of this night, Birmingham based dance company Humanhood seek to destabilise our expectations. Engaging with other art forms, and sometimes with other worlds, Humanhood take us on a journey that is ethereal and dreamlike.
Humanhood was founded by Rudi Cole and Júlia Robert Parés, and they choreograph the first piece, Universe in which three dancers seem to break free of the primordial mess to create life. Dressed in pale blue pyjamas Jill Goh, Connor Scott and Noa Genazzano swirl and pulse on a circular black matt, hardly standing but covering the space with elegant forward and backward rolls. At the back of the stage, artist Mark Howard, also the costume designer, paints the movements of the dancers on a long canvas.
At first, Universe seems too short, as too quickly we are led to the next performance space where Gyòa Valtýsdóttir awaits us with her cello, but this is no ordinary recital. At times the Icelandic musician plays with two bows, which often as not play against the instrument’s wooden sides than the strings. She creates sound, tense and menacing, spiritual and scientific, momentarily reminiscent of Arvo Pärt.
Valtýsdóttir is the guide to our next world, taking us through backstage areas to the main space where Cole and Parés perform their piece Zero. Dancing in what seems a circle of salt, or perhaps it’s the pupil of an eye, or the abyss of a black hole, their synchronized movements are inspired by martial arts and Tai Chi. It is a dance of two halves; in the first they are trapped by the circle, while in the second they transgress its boundaries. But this spectacle isn’t just the result of the dance, but also the lighting design by Horne Horneman and the sound design by Iain Armstrong. Together they fill the space providing a feast for the senses.
Jean-Luc Godard’s 1968 Rolling Stones film Sympathy for the Devil demonstrates that the hit song was not just the brainchild of Mick Jagger, but the result of a collaboration between all band members, producers, musicians and backing singers. Godard thought that revolution could be forged in collaboration. Humanhood may not be striving for political revolution, but through collaboration – and they even work with an astronomer too – they seek to create new worlds. Evolution rather than revolution.
The 90 minutes go by in a flash, and all too swiftly, we’re returned to our world, but with glimmers of the sights and sounds of other universes. Humanhood is a dance company worth travelling light years to see.
Runs until 25 May 2018 | Image: Contributed