Tasty bites: Dance Sampled at the Birmingham Hippodrome

March 3, 2017

Phil Preece

You’ve got to hand it to the Hipp. They’re in the business of entertainment and that’s exactly what they set out to deliver – not every theatre understands this – and deliver they do. Their programming is always excellent, but with Dance Sampled, chief executive and artistic director Fiona Allan and her team have excelled even themselves. Because this taster menu turned out to be a feast of world dance embracing the widest imaginable range of current dance styles, all fresh, fascinating and fabulous fun, and with all seats at £15. Really.

First off, Aakash Odedra Company gave us JeSuis, a state of the art contemporary dance statement informed by South Asian classical dance and inspired by the migration of peoples in response to world conflict. Dark, intense, troubled and troubling this showed dancers can really mean it. Next, Phantom, a short, exquisite pas de deux by American choreographer Jessica Lang from her 2012 Lyric Pieces. Created for our very own Birmingham Royal Ballet, this seemed a perfect masterclass in the company’s own Frederick Ashton tradition of classicism.

Julia Urruty and Claudio GonzalezPhoto Kicca Tomassi
Julia Urruty and Claudio Gonzalez
Photo Kicca Tomassi

Then the totally unexpected: Julia Urruty and Claudio Gonzalez and the Argentinian Tango, fast, furious and incomparably funny. As it busily went about reclaiming our physical differences and ignoring imperfections, Lo otra cara de la moneda (the other side of the coin) had these two high octane dancers camping up the extreme absurdities of the tango in fat suits to a storm of laughter and applause. Closing the first half, Richard Alston Dance Company gave us an extract from the powerful but serenely beautiful Gypsy Mixture with a 21st-century take on Balkan folk music.

Richard Alston's Gypsy MixturePhoto Chris Nash
Richard Alston’s Gypsy Mixture
Photo Chris Nash

Opening with a bang, the second half gave us world-class premieur danseur Carlos Acosta’s own Cuban company Acosta Danza with the explosive and colourful (as you’d expect) Durrumbe. To our delight, Argentinians Urruty and Gonzalez were then back with the real thing, Buenos Aires aqui y ahora, the fast, most glittering sex and sensuality of high-precision tango bringing shouts of delight from the crowd.

Following them, BBC Young Dancer of the Year 2015 Connor Scott’s own solo work White Water was an exquisite meditation on movement itself. I look forward to more from this new stellar artist in the future.

Iron Skulls Company in SinestesiaPhoto Alvaro Saol
Iron Skulls Company in Sinestesia
Photo Alvaro Saol

Finally, after all the refinement however intense, we had the fast, furious streetwise and great fun Spanish hip-hop finale of Sinestesia by Iron Skulls Company (you get the picture) with dancers invading the audience like torch-wielding terrorists while performing impossible-looking body-and eye-popping routines on stage to audience cheers. A brilliant high octane point to end on. Can’t wait for next year’s show.