May 17, 2016
Sadler’s Sampled, that well-established two nights that pulls together dance across the genres, from ballet to hip hop and all places between, is spreading its wings. This week it pops up in the Midlands as part of the International Dance Festival Birmingham; and what an enjoyable evening the first night proved, with something for everyone.
Birmingham’s Sampled opens with a cracker: Wayne McGregor’s Outlier, made for New York City Ballet in 2010 as part of their Architecture and Dance Series. Danced here by Company Wayne McGregor
Outlier is a relentless and intricate work; so much so, that’s it’s difficult to take everything in first time around. There’s plenty of McGregor’s familiar undulating through the spine and folding of the torso, but the work’s balletic roots are never far away, familiar steps appearing up again and again, sometimes very classically but sometimes in unexpected and interesting ways.
The choreography reflects the irregularities in the music, Thomas Ades’ Concentric Paths. At its heart are two extended duets, a mouth-watering male-female affair by Fukiko Takase and Travis Clausen-Knight, followed by an all-male reflection by Louis McMiller and Alvaro Dule (a response to the unexpected structures in the score, perhaps). Takase and Clausen-Knight were especially eye-catching, Takase’s sinuous body stretching and bending perfectly with the music.
McGregor and Lucy Carter’s set designs, strange concentric red circles, then long rectangles of blue, reflect Bauhaus aesthetics. Carter’s playing with darkness and light in the lighting adds further to the mood.
A short kathak offering comes from Vidya Patel, who came to prominence in the BBC’s 2015 Young Dancer competition. Basant, choreographed by Sujata Banerjee is a stylish, abstract, piece that celebrates the colours of new life.
Ballet’s contribution comes in the form of the Balcony pas de deux from MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet, danced by home favourites, Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Yaoqian Shang and Jamie Bond. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a happier looking Juliet. Shang positively beamed. This was a Juliet thrilled and excited to be with her love. And in the famous flying move, she didn’t just fly, she soared.
Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s Faun, which opens the second half, is a reworking that’s better – and certainly more suited to today – than the original. Both James O’Hara and his nymph, Daisy Phillips, are gloriously animalistic. In mythology, nymphs are not chaste and retiring, they’re amorous and free, just like here, where the dance is both athletic and sensual.
A couple of tango duets from German Cornejo and Gisela Galeassi keepsthe Strictly fans happy. When Galeassi appeared for the first, A Los Amigos, her sparkling blue and gold gown brought an audible purr from the audience. The furious footwork and high-speed intertwining legs soon had them cheering too. Quite what Len would have made of all the showy lifts in SuSu I’m not sure. “But it’s not tango.” I can hear it now. But when it’s as dramatic and entertaining as this, who cares?
The show closes with Pockemon Crew, a collective of hip hop dancers from Lyon. In Hashtag, choreographer Riyad Fghani seeks to decipher social phenomena including that which connects mobile and social networks. The idea is at its strongest in the opening half, which is full of references to mobile phones (sometimes true to life and amusing) and well-constructed ensemble dance. Hashtag does lose its way rather when it moves to an emphasis on solo work. In fact, it almost feels like two pieces stitched together. Still, the excellence of the dancers, as with everyone on this evening mixed in every sense, remained undoubted.