The 7 Fingers in the very mixed programme, TRIPTYQUE, at Sadler’s Wells, London
April 1, 2016
Many will have looked forward to the return of Québec-based The 7 Fingers (Les 7 Doigts de la Main) to London with their new triple bill TRIPTYQUE, which marks the first time the company has worked with outside choreographers but, for the most part, they seemed to prove to be a hindrance, rather than enhance the company’s style and work.
TRIPTYQUE sees the company collaborate with what are billed as some of the world’s most cutting-edge contemporary choreographers; Marie Chouinard (bODY_rEMIX/ gOLDBERG_vARIATIONS), Victor Quijada (RUBBERBANDance) and Marcos Morau (La Veronal). The performers who make up the seven coiling parts of the moving machine that is the company remain a credit to their collective name, but this triple bill of dance and circus comes without their usual charm and high standard of circus. The majority of what was created does little present their talents, the work also being set to largely uninspiring scores and against backdrops of little intention. In TRIPTYQUE, the choreographers too often do not live up to their billing.
Chouinard’s opening piece, Anne & Samuel, is particularly self-indulgent in its opening male-female duet staged on crutches. Animalistic in its quality and rather introverted, the dance ventures back and forth across and around the stage in a lead-follow manner. The contact between the bodies becomes fraught, with tension building as the movement nods to Kinbaku, the Japanese art of bondage. Anne & Samuel is primal in its simplicity but leaves much to be desired, lacking emotional interest or any anticipation or excitement.
Comic relief came in the form of a trio on the stage’s apron: a duet accompanied by a mop which was passed between the pair as they simultaneously mopped and moved to a soundtrack of Sing Sing Sing!.
Quijada’s Variations 9.81 quickly returned matters to solemnity. Full of hand-balancing and admirable strength and control, the performers were true to what we expect, working as a tight pack, creating waves with their bodies whilst upside down, moving entirely in sync. Some parts appeared less well-rehearsed, but the opening sequence of legs reverberating with the introduction of new notes in the melody was mesmerising. The transitions from circus to dance and back again were seamless. While the intensity remained subtle, the combination of dance with better music was a recipe for success.
The sublime turned to the ridiculous in Morau’s Nocturnes, featuring fish heads and suspended beds, jumping the fine line between waking moments and dreams. It benefits hugely from the solemn Chopin music. Combining physical theatre, mime, spoken word, dance and even three Spanish webs, the piece was the highlight of TRIPTYQUE. The easy, dream-state of the piece showed off the performers’ skill and strength as they scaled ropes, flying beds and each other with awe-inspiring skill. A unicycle even made a brief appearance. The triple bill remained full of dark and ambiguity, but this showed the company at its best, and as it is best known.
The 7 Fingers remains one of the homes of modern circus-dance, and one of the world’s most inventive contemporary circus companies, but despite the final highs, this collaboration with other artists was less than dazzling. Even so, the raw skill of the performers was undeniable, and carried the evening through to the end.