United Kingdom Satie, Debussy/Sawhney, Turnage, Made at Sadler’s Wells, Afterlight (Part One), Faun, Undance: Sadler’s Wells, London, 22.6.2013. (JO’D)
Afterlight (Part One)
Dancer: Thomasin Gulgeç
Choreography: Russell Maliphant
Music: Eric Satie’s Gnossiennes 1-4
Lighting Design: Michael Hulls
Sound design: Andy Cowton
Dancers: James O’Hara, Daisy Phillips
Choreography: Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui
Music: L’après-midi d’un faun: Claude Debussy with additional music by Nitin Sawhney
Costumes: Hussein Chalayan
Lighting: Adam Carrée
Dancers: Catarina Carvalho, Travis Clausen-Knight, Michael-John Harper, Daniela Neugebauer, Anna Nowak, Louis McMiller, Benjamin Ord, Fukiko Takase, Alexander Whitley, Jessica Wright
Choreography: Wayne McGregor in collaboration with the dancers
Music: Mark-Antony Turnage
Set Design: Mark Wallinger
Costume design: Moritz Junge
Lighting Design: Lucy Carter
This programme of three, award-winning productions by Sadler’s Wells moves from the organic to the technological, from the circle to the grid. Russell Maliphant’s Afterlight (Part One), opens with dancer Thomasin Gulgeç turning slowly on the spot to the music of Eric Satie’s ‘Gnossiennes’. The shadows on the floor around him revolve in the opposite direction. The effect is immediately mesmeric. At first, light falls only on the upper half of the dancer’s body (catching the red of his track suit top). It points up the particular angle at which he holds his head, the particular gestures he makes with his arms, the delicate positioning of his fingers. The light expands, temporarily, giving the dancer more room in which to move. But always it is a dappled light, and always the movement is a circular one. Bending deeply backwards from the waist (like pioneer modern dancer Ruth St. Denis in photographs of her 1906 solo, ‘Radha’), Gulgeç seems absorbed in a mystic and even painless melancholy that had its origins before the dance began and that will persist after it has finished.
Maliphant found inspiration for this piece in the drawings of Nijinksy (for whom, according to his wife, the circle was ‘the complete, the perfect movement’). Nijinksy’s spirit is also present in the second of the three works in the programme, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s ‘reinvention’ of ‘L’Après-midi d’un faune’ for two dancers. Faun uses the Debussy score from the original ballet of 1912, but intercuts it with music by contemporary composer, Nitin Sawhney. These two musical languages reflect the sense of ‘other’ experienced by the ‘faun’ (James O’Hara) and the ‘nymph’ (Daisy Phillips) during their encounter in a forest clearing. He inhabits the classical Greece evoked by Debussy, she one that is more archaic, more ‘eastern’. If Afterlight (Part One) focuses on gesture, Faun focuses on the body. In this case it is her strong, dark-haired, statuesque figure, with its gymnastic movements, in contrast to his slim, supple one. As these two beings of different species progress from fear to short-lived intimacy, he moves around her like liquid flowing.
There is no dappled light, no forest clearing, in Wayne McGregor’s Undance. When the curtain went up after the interval, the stage resembled a brightly-lit compound. As soon as the ten dancers facing the audience in a line start to move to Mark-Anthony Turnage’s restless music, film of the same dancers in the same formation appears on the grid-patterned wall behind them. The body, now, has to co-exist with the filmed representation of itself….. or compete against it. Sometimes the filmed dancers are making different movements from the ‘real’ dancers. Sometimes they are making the same movements, but out of synch. In either case, the eye is constantly and uncomfortably drawn between the two sets of dancers. The grid, it becomes clear, is a reference to Eadweard Muybridge’s photographic studies of the human figure in motion. Like Maliphant and Cherkaoui, McGregor looks back to the early twentieth century. When his dancers gather in a circle, however, it is the strobe-lit cylinder of the technologies that led from photography to cinema, and beyond. The rather cold, analytical nature of the piece, may have come as too much of a shock to an audience that had been lulled by Satie and Debussy. There were no whoops of appreciation during the applause. There was only applause.