Wild Card: Neon Dance  – Sadler’s Wells, London

Curator: Adrienne Hart

Reviewer: Richard Maguire

You expect dance at Sadler’s Wells, but the Wild Card series held in the Lilian Baylis studio space, encourages younger dancers to collaborate with artists from other disciplines. In an evening curated by Neon Dance’s artistic director Adrienne Hart, we have an eclectic programme of music, lights, art installations, and, of course, some stunning dance.

The raked seating has been stored away in order to extend the stage, and the audience is invited to come on to this stage and sit on the floor at the edges of the performance space. The floor is not comfortable, but the reward of being so close to the performers is worth the discomfort. So intimate is the space that the audience can hear pianist John Kameel Farah singing under his breath. And to get to the performance space, the dancers have to step over the audience collected at its perimeter.

Neon Dance showcase extracts from two longer pieces, Empathy and Mahajanaka. In Empathy dancers Andras Fodor, Dafni Krazoudi and Aoi Nakamura, dressed in bright white body-suits, push and pull against each other, sometimes duplicating the same moves, while at others they twist to their own tunes. Occasionally, this intriguing partnership takes place within walls created by neon laser lights. The space between the laser beams catches the dry ice and it swirls and tumbles like psychedelic light displays of oil swimming in water. Mahajanaka brings an Eastern flavour to the evening with Pichet Klunchun and Tilly Webber coming together quietly and touchingly, creating a stillness on the floor. Sometimes the flickering of Klunchun’s right hand is the only movement in this short but beautiful piece.

The most impressive performer of the night has to be Maëva Berthelot who dances to Farah’s live piano. At first it’s difficult to spot her as she seems to be part of the audience, only caught in the spotlight by accident. Even when she stands up to move closer to the taped-out performance space we are unsure of her position. She shrugs, hands in pockets, smiling at the audience, wondering whether she should cross that line into the official space. Her best work is when she hugs this line, balancing on one foot, daring her body to fall into the sanctioned space. At other times she arches her back to the floor, gaining the support she needs by resting on the sides of her Dr Martens. These dangerous angles punctuate her confident routine.

Ending the first half of the evening is music by cellist Anne Müller, and, while she has only one instrument, the studio space is filled with the sound of strings. In an ingenious move, Müller uses a loop pedal, recording layer upon layer of music, which come together to build crescendos and waves of sound that sometimes vibrate through our bodies. A few times Müller’s cello sounds like the human voice, and perhaps to highlight this, she adds her own voice to the loop machine in her last composition.

Not all of the action takes place on the stage, as upstairs there is an art installation by Lily Hunter Green examining how some flowers only surrender their pollen when they feel the particular vibrations made by particular bees. As the bee population dwindles, some flowers are now pollinated by human hands and, because they provide the same frequency, tuning forks are now used as bee surrogates. The shimmering sounds of these tuning forks hover over this installation.

Despite Wild Card presenting such a diverse collection of entertainments, it fits together very satisfactorily, and these evenings allow for an audience to see close up the next generation of dancers and performers. This intimacy will ensure the success of the Wild Card series.

Runs until 23 March 2018 | Image: Contributed

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The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. 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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