Four Choreographers Interpret Thomas Adès’ Music

United KingdomUnited Kingdom  Thomas Adès, See the Music, Hear the Dance: Britten Sinfonia (conducted by Thomas Adès),  Choreography by McGregor, Armitage, Whitley and Pite,  Sadlers Wells, Wayne McGregor | Random Dance, Kidd Pivot, Sadler’s Wells, London, 31.10.2014 (J.O’D)


Dancers: Travis Clausen-Knight, Alvaro Dule, Michael-John Harper, Louis McMiller, Daniela Neugebauer, Anna Nowak, James Pett, Fukiko Takase, Jessica Wright
Violin:  Thomas Gould
Choreography: Wayne McGregor
Music: Thomas Adès, Concentric Paths
Set Design:Wayne McGregor, Lucy Carter
Costume Design:Moritz Junge
Lighting Design:Lucy Carter


Life Story

Dancers: Emily Wagner, Ruka Hatua-Saar
Soprano: Claire Booth
Piano: Thomas Adès
Choreography: Karole Armitage
Music: Thomas Adès, Life Story
Costume Design: David Salle


The Grit in the Oyster

Dancers: Jessica Andrenacci, Antonette Dayrit, Alexander Whitley
Violins: Jacqueline Shave, Marcus Barcham-Stevens
Viola:  Simon Tandree
Cello:  Caroline Dearnley
Piano: Thomas Adès
Choreography: Alexander Whitley
Music: Thomas Adès, Piano Quintet
Costume Design: Jean-Marc Puissant
Lighting Design: Lee Curran
Dramaturgy: Chris Fogg

Dancers: Katherine Cowie, Shay Kuebler, Yannick Matthon, David Raymond, Cindy Salgado, Tiffany Tregarthen  with students from London Contemporary Dance School and Central School of Ballet
Choreography: Crystal Pite
Music: Thomas Adès, Polaris
Set Design: Jay Gower Taylor
Costume Design:Linda Chow
Lighting Design: Tom Visser


The second in Sadler’s Wells’ The Composer Series (which presents dance inspired by a leading contemporary composer) features the work of pianist, composer and conductor Thomas Adès. Played live by the Britten Sinfonia, Adès’s music is satisfyingly different in each of the four pieces that make up this See the Music, Hear the Dance programme. Wayne McGregor’s Outlier exploits the urgent clarity (be it of strings, woodwind, percussion or brass) of Concentric Paths. Karole Armitage responds to the sardonic sophistication of Life Story, with onstage singer and piano. In the world premiere of The Grit in the Oyster Alexander Whitley matches the probing Piano Quintet (also performed on-stage) to probing choreography. Crystal Pite (in another world premiere, which takes its title from the music) moves over sixty dancers about the stage as Polaris builds to its orchestrated climax.

Danced here in a ‘remount’ by Sadler’s Wells and the Wayne McGregor | Random Dance company, Outlier was originally created for the New York City Ballet in 2010. It is uncluttered in a way that other work I have seen by this choreographer is not: no neon tubes hovering over the dancers’ heads (Tetractys); no screen installations (Atomos); no film of the dancers projected behind them (UNDANCE); no box within a box (Chroma). There is an upright directness of movement, too. Perhaps this is because the piece was made for an American company. As performed by Travis Clausen-Knight, Alvaro Dule, Anna Novak and the other members of the company the dance, above all in the duets, is as clear and urgent as the music. The audience responded with enthusiastic applause.

An American sensibility was also to be felt in Life Story, by the New-York based Karole Armitage. Soprano Claire Booth is first seen leaning world-wearily over the piano at which Thomas Adès sits. When she turns to sing it is a darkly comic tale, based on words by Tennessee Williams, of what will probably be another one night stand in a hotel bedroom. Dancers Emily Wagner and Ruka Hatua-Saar do not mime the actions of the two characters involved. Rather they represent their feelings through a skewed pas de deux that complements Booth’s voice as it lingers unexpectedly over the lyrics. Wagner wears ballet shoes, but instead of a bun her dyed red hair is in bunches. A lift that goes wrong leaves her slapping the floor with both hands in resigned frustration.

This was a difficult act after an extended pause for Alexander Whitley’s very different The Grit in the Oyster to follow. With the musicians playing Adès’ Piano Quintet behind them, three dancers (Jessica Andrenaaci, Antonette Dayrit and Whitley himself) moved out from their fixed pose over a rectangle of soft grey floor at the front of the stage. The floor is a central and supporting element throughout. The dancers frequently sit, lie or roll on it. Liberated from the need to keep their balance, they can explore movement as the musicians near them explore sound. Antonette Dayrit, who recently joined Alexander Whitley after eight years at Rambert, seems to be at the very point of exchanging her former company’s more muscular, core-based technique (if Rambert technique is that) for Whitley’s fluid questioning with the body. Despite, or because of, the dramaturgy, however, the piece itself runs into sand. Having reached, relatively soon, what would be an effective ending, it seems to go on because the music means it has to.

Polaris, the ‘production number’ of the evening, began not with music but with silence. It was a silence broken by the eerie rustling of the black ‘shell suits’ of sixty student dancers as they moved in precise, huddled, undulating formation from one side of the darkened stage to the other. The eeriness increases when, as they come to rest, the half-light reflects from their collectively upturned faces. Crystal White once again brings what is perhaps the cold grey of her native Canadian, or polar, winter to the Sadler’s Wells auditorium. As in Ten Duets on a Theme of Rescue (by Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet in 2013) and The Tempest Replica (by Pite’s own company, Kidd Pivot, last year), the dancers pass ceaselessly across the stage and back. Those from Kidd Pivot stop on the way for fraught interaction. But it is in the broader strokes that Pite’s choreography makes most impression. The broader stroke here, and one that matches the scope and trajectory of the music, is the control of the sixty-strong corps. Arranging themselves into zip-like formation that seems to borrow from Akram Khan’s Dust (for English National Ballet), moving like iron-filings under magnetic force, twitching their forearms almost imperceptibly like the legs of insects, these eager young dancers from London Contemporary Dance School and Central School of Ballet astound.

John O’Dwyer


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