February 9, 2018
In The Knot, her latest work for her Umanoove ensemble and a follow-up to 2016’s The Happiness Project, choreographer Didy Veldman sets out to explore the ritual, and our idea, of marriage, and how this has changed over the last 100 years.
Dutch-born Veldman examines the social and personal significance of marriage in contemporary Western society. Combining rather literal movement with leggy, aesthetically-pleasing displays from her seven dancers, she goes some way in lifting the curtain on the act of marriage by staging the very thing.
Stravinsky’s Les Noces is combined with ‘musical space’ by composer Ben Foskett to provide a sometimes complex soundscape for the journeys of the dancers. Unfortunately, this sometimes overpowers the work and does little to enhance, or even contrast, the action.
The excellent Umanoove dancers interpret the marital themes, exploring them literally and metaphorically, The Knot moving freely as it glides from one scenario to another as the dancers animated fears, expectations, the meaning of ‘forever’ and finally the wedding party.
The atmosphere changes swiftly here when the fourth wall is broken, the dancers inviting some audience members into the stage as wedding guests. Dancing with them and leading them around almost felt like an unnecessary, though, a little and twee even. Observing from afar felt much more insightful and of more substance.
When the action became less literal, Veldman’s choreography is full and expansive, showing off the dancers’ skills as dancers, as opposed to a vehicle for humour at the audience’s expense. That said, those comic moments do add life to The Knot and to its movement vocabulary.
The company of dancers is well matched, but it is so hard to take the eyes off former Rambert dancer, Dane Hurst. His strength and control, partnered with delicate precision is perfect. He seems to understand precisely what Veldman’s movement is all about. It is good to see some apprentice dancers in the show too. They were excellent as well, bringing their own vigour and verve to an entertaining, and at times exhilarating, evening.
The Knot is at Guildford Live on February 14, 2018 (www.glive.co.uk); and will be touring nationwide in the autumn.