Dance of all styles in Sadler’s Wells Sampled

Sadler’s Wells, London
February 8, 2019

Maggie Foyer

This is a weekend when Sadler’s Wells lets its hair down. Stalls seats are ripped out to let punters get close up and personal, as dance happens throughout the building, on all levels and in all spaces. On stage there is something for all tastes but with no compromise on quality. Brief video clips offer dance artists the opportunity to communicate directly with the audience and give an insight into what inspires them. For the rest it’s dance, dance, dance.

The programme opened with a statement of female power as Vicki Igbokwe and Uchenna Dance presented The Head Wrap Diaries: Fierce and Free. Half a dozen women commandeered the stage delivering exactly what was advertised, weaving their huge squares of coloured cloth into the gloriously liberated dance. The blend of club styles, fused with African and contemporary dance, was effectively structured in choreographed patterns and clever lighting and boosted by high energy performances.

Dance with classical roots was ethnically diverse. Mavin Khoo, who so often gives his time to coach and mentor others, took the spotlight and proved with an amazing dancer he is in an odissi solo he’d learnt as a teenager. The detail of vibrating fingers, and precise footwork is complemented by his fluid body while he engages in lively communication through his mobile face, carefully painted in traditional style. The music was provided by the four onstage players offering a totally authentic experience.

Sangeun Lee and Raphaël Coumes-Marquet in DiamondsPhoto Ian Gavan
Sangeun Lee and Raphaël Coumes-Marquet in Diamonds
Photo Ian Gavan

We were transported to Andalusia for Patricia Guerrero’s Proceso Eterno, a fiery flamenco stream of consciousness that flows and grows, seemingly improvised, but with precision and style that show evidence of careful rehearsal. There is conversation with both her percussionist and singer in her animated exuberant style.

Classical ballet hit the heights with Balanchine’s Diamonds: a high-watermark of classicism danced by Sangeun Lee and Raphaël Coumes-Marquet from Dresden Semperoper Ballett. The perfection of detail was given added warmth by Lee who always manages to bring an extra dimension to cool classicism. In the second half the pair took ballet into post modern territory in William Forsythe’s Bach duet from his Neue Suite, their long lean lines so suited to the style. Seeing Coumes-Marquet, now a ballet master to the company, enjoying a bonus performance on the London stage was an added treat.

Elly Braund and Nicholas Shikkis in Richard Alston's Brahms HungarianPhoto Chris Nash
Elly Braund and Nicholas Shikkis in Richard Alston’s Brahms Hungarian
Photo Chris Nash

Contemporary dance presented alternative styles from Sharon Eyal and Richard Alston. The Alston Dance Company presented the delightful Brahms Hungarian, a loosely woven medley of easy on the eye folksy dance accompanied by Jason Ridgway at the piano. The dancers captured the essence of the music in a highly enjoyable performance.

Rambert 2, the new young company of famous parent, pulled out the stops to give a powerful performance of Sharon Eyal’s Killer Pig. At nearly twice the length of the other works it would have benefitted from editing to give a better overall balance to the evening, but it gave a good showing to a very impressive team of dancers.

It had to be hip hop to close the bill and BirdGang did the honours with What is BirdGang? In a genre where groups fight to find a distinctive identity, BirdGang has achieved this, strangely by working behind masks. Their punchy style and high energy pulse caught the attention and neatly wrapped up a diverse evening that demonstrates once again the huge diversity and popularity of the dance scene.

BirdGang in What is BirdGang>Photo Belinda Lawley
BirdGang in What is BirdGang>
Photo Belinda Lawley