Sadler’s Wells, London
February 9, 2024
Presented by the Dance Consortium, who do so much to take top foreign companies around the regions, São Paulo Dance Company opened the British leg of their UK and Ireland tour (following performances in Dublin) with a triple bill of works by Goyo Montero, Nacho Duato and the less familiar Cassi Abranches.
The company’s 22 dancers are technically superb in choreography that brings a Latin edge to ballet and contemporary dance. They are brilliantly flexible in the way they adapt to the demands of each choreographer, and physically. All three pieces call for a great deal of ensemble work, executed with such control and precision that at times they seemed to be come a single, amorphous, fluid entity.
In terms of enjoyment, Anthem, which opened the evening, was the front runner. Created in 2019 by Montero, dance director at the Staatstheater Nürnberg in Germany and resident choreographer for Acosta Danza, it’s ostensibly a look at and reflection of the cycle of life. I found it more a reflection of other world and other life possibilities. Typical of Montero’s work, it’s full of group sections from which pairs sometimes emerge. It certainly comes shrouded in a dream-like, moody quality.
Anthem made for a great start. The other two works, although certainly colourful, and in the case of Agora, bright and upbeat, do not quite rise to the same heights.
Gwana, by Duato, artistic director of the Staatsballett Berlin, draws on the sun and sea, colours and flavours of Valencia, although the title is actually a reference to the West Saharan Gwana people, originally taken to Morocco as part of the slave trade. Agora, by Brazilian choreographer Abranches, brings an Afro-Brazilian fusion along with strong percussion and bass. They felt a little too similar, especially in use of shape and stage space. Indeed, one was left with the feeling this was actually what they were about.
The staging is a treat throughout though, for which a great deal of credit must go to the lighting designers, Nicolas Fischtel, Goyo Montero and Gabriel Pederneiras. They create wonderfully atmospheric ambiences, with the addition of smoke in Anthem helping to create an otherworldly feel.
You may not be blown away by this triple bill, but the dancers of the São Paulo Dance Company really are fabulous. They are certainly worth catching on their tour.
For full tour dates, venues and booking links, visit danceconsortium.com.