June 30, 2020
Snatching victory from the jaws of defeat when faced with the cancellation of their international tour, this brave company of thirty-eight dancers from fourteen African countries filmed their final rehearsal of the re-staged production of Pina Bausch’s iconic Sacre. Dancing at Dusk was filmed on a Senegal beach that offers a vast empty sandscape with only a line of breakers as backdrop. It may have a lost a little but also made some interesting gains.
Bausch’s The Rite of Spring could have been created for such a space. Unlike Nijinsky’s original that is locked into ancient Slavic ritual, Bausch tackles more universal and primal human emotions crossing time and space and this almost featureless environment, although a tough work setting, offered stark beauty and made perfect sense.
These are powerful dancers, a formidable ensemble yet sensitive individuals. In the gathering dusk their bodies are reduced to silhouettes but while much of the facial expression is lost, their emotions are visible in the physicality of the movements.
The tension between the sexes, always an undercurrent in Rite, seems heightened on the windswept sands. The sandy surface is rougher than in the theatre, with the occasional stumble adding to the rawness and reality.
The lead male dancer, a man of imposing height and dominant presence is a force to be reckoned with. The women find subtlety in their individual responses to the red dress and it is left to the Chosen One to rise to the climax through foreboding, terror and finally death.
It was to the dancers’ credit that they were able to create so much emotion in the vast space and I look forward to seeing them in the confines of Sadler’s Wells where the lights and space will help the dancers to draw the focus down.
The cancellation of performances must have been particularly distressing as these dancers are not on full-time contracts or employed in subsidised opera houses. I hope they are keeping safe and will be able to resume performances in the autumn.
Dancing at Dusk can be rented online until July 31, 2020. Visit www.sadlerswells.com for details.