Five Short Ballets at Sadler’s Wells – Finding Light; PresentPast; After the Rain; Five Movements, Three Repeats; Two x Two

Finding Light
PresentPast
After the Rain
Five Movements, Three Repeats
Two x Two

Finding Light
Dancers – Yuan Yuan Tan, Damian Smith

Edwaard Liang – Choreography
Antonio Vivaldi – Music [Violin Concerto in B]
Mark Zappone – Costume designs
Adam Carrée – Lighting designs

PresentPast
Dancer – Fang-Yi Sheu

Andy Cowton (tenor)

Russell Maliphant – Choreography
Gaetano Donizetti – Music [L’Elisir d’Amore – una furtiva lagrima]
Michael Hulls – Lighting designs

After the Rain
Dancers – Yuan Yuan Tan, Damian Smith

Christopher Wheeldon – Choreography
Arvo Pärt – Music [Tabula Rasa; Spiegel im Spiegel]
Holly Hynes – Costume designs

Five Movements, Three Repeats
Dancers – Yuan Yuan Tan, Damian Smith, Fang-Yi Sheu, Clifton Brown

Christopher Wheeldon – Choreography
Max Richter – Max Richter
Reid Bartelme – Costume designs
Mary Louis Geiger – Lighting designs

Two x Two
Dancers – Yuan Yuan Tan, Fang-Yi Sheu

Russell Maliphant – Choreography
Andy Cowton – Music
Michael Hulls – Lighting design


Reviewed by: G. J. Dowler

Reviewed: 15 November, 2013
Venue: Sadler's Wells Theatre, London EC1

A curious evening this, rather short on content – just over an hour of dance – and featuring only four dancers, yet it served as a welcome palette-cleanser after the stodgy and overbaked fare that has been served up in London’s dance scene in recent weeks. It has a faintly cobbled together quality (two recently created works, three of longer life) and an unashamed lack of coherence – the programme note assured us with unnerving glee that none of the three choreographers had any contact with the other two. That in itself did not matter too much, although had the evening been more ambitious, it would undoubtedly have had an adverse effect. Massively on its plus side were four superlative dancers: the divine Chinese dancer Yuan Yuan Tan, Principal of San Francisco Ballet and Taiwanese Fang-Yi Sheu, a contemporary dancer of prodigious talent who were more than ably supported by SF’s Damian Smith, a partner of extreme strength and sensitivity and the versatile Clifton Brown. The absence of tricksy video projection is welcome, as is impenetrable lighting design, bizarre costuming and the yawn-inducing pretentiousness.


Edwaard Liang has been called a ‘choreographer to watch’ and certainly his brief lyrical duet for Tan and Smith justifies the billing. Set to a Vivaldi concerto slow movement, Finding Light weaves itself cooly around the music, the dancers creating poses of sometimes quite exquisite beauty. Russell Maliphant specialises in choreographic miniatures, solos or duets of great intensity, and with PresentPast, he continues his exploration of turning, arcing movement and and ports de bras of haunting simplicity which made his Afterlight such a wondrous work. In this Sheu brought mesmeric control to Maliphant’s action. It is, as the title suggests a work of two parts, the first a serene accompaniment to Caruso’s recording of Donizetti’s “una furtiva lagrima”, the second more frenzied to Andy Cowton’s pots-and-pans composition. Both work well, but less so together where the juxtaposition diminishes the impact. This and the Liang piece were premiered by these dancers last year in China. There followed After the Rain, a more conventional pas de deux from Christopher Wheeldon to Pärt’s haunting ‘Spiegel im Spiegel which proved to be another showcase for Tan’s fabulous technique and presence and Smith’s deluxe partnering. Alas both dancers were saddled with deeply unflattering costumes, Smith in particular clad in the sort of synthetic ice-dance pants which one thought had gone out with the fall of the Berlin Wall.


Wheeldon later provided a quartet (actually a revival from 2011) which outstayed its welcome, the naggingly pretentious Five Movements, Three Repeats, an eclectic mix of dance styles and comprising many of the tics of William Forsythe and his followers: blackouts, violin partitas, repeated sections and little discernible meaning. To finish, a Maliphant favourite Two x Two, both women framed in squares of light moving with increasing intensity and speeds, Michael Hulls’ design picking out whirling and flailing limbs to Cowton’s percussive score. Great fun.



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