Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London
June 24, 2016
Founding director of the company and choreographer of two of the programme’s works, Benjamin Millepied comes with an impeccable dance pedigree. His dance training in the French and NYCB style and his brilliant performing career covering a wide range of roles make an initiative like L. A. Dance Project perfectly tailored to his talents. Surrounded by a coterie of the best and brightest in the complementary art world, this dynamic company burst onto the London stage like a breath of fresh air.
Hearts & Arrows set to Philip Glass’ String Quartet No. 3 opened the bill at a blistering pace. The six brief episodes are all too short. Arms and legs flicker in canon or unison in sophisticated patterns of movement whose wit neatly sidesteps the superficial. The chequered shorts and skirts that look rather kitsch in the photos looked absolutely right at high speed, as did the dancers.
There is little uniform in the company ranks. The five men and three women, all different shapes and sizes, are consolidated only in a talent to move with vigour and purpose and to offer an individual personality, while Glass’ insistent rhythms create a restlessness and longing to be on the move, that chimes perfectly.
The interval, after a work of only 17 minutes, was necessary as Harbor Me by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui is so diametrically different that it needs a surround of empty space. This was the poetry of life, dusty and unkempt, raw and throbbing with humanity. The three men moved with the natural animal grace that Cherkaoui is able to coax out of highly trained dancers. At a time when half the world seems to be on the move, when home no longer offers security and borders seem impenetrable, he develops these themes in moving pictures of exquisite dappled light and landscapes of smoky opacity. The dancers become elements of air, water and fire and Aaron Carr, Morgan Lugo and Robbie Moore were nothing short of magnificent. In moments like this when art and philosophy share a space, the spirit of William Blake seems to hover in the air.
Millepied’s new On the Other Side, the longest of the three works was distinguished by a monumental backdrop from L.A. artist Mark Bradford. A brilliant collages of colour it was a creature of many moods that found a new persona with each lighting change. The dance fared less well, risking ennui in an overlong 45-minute work. In the shifting relationships between the dancers there seemed to be a message that didn’t quite resonate or translate and the gentler score, assembled from various works by Glass, had none of the earlier potency.