Thursday, 14 April 2022

Stage: Athletic artistry

Elements of Freestyle
by ISH Dance Collective
director-choreographer Marco Gerris
dramaturg Arnout Lems
lighting Mike den Ottolander • set Jerry Beckers
with Luis Alkmim, Michael van Beek, Vera van der Bie, Sven Boekhorst, Jelle Briggeman, Thomas Krikken, Bart van der Linden, Dez Maarsen, Dietrich Pott, Arnold Put, Annie Tangberg, Pim Wouters
Peacock Theatre, London • 13-23.Apr.22

Blending dance, music and extreme sports, the Netherlands' ISH Dance Collective takes over the Peacock stage with an explosion of energy and a cast of astonishingly talented performers. The range of skills is so impressive that even some issues with lighting and scene transitions don't weaken the impact. This is a triumphant display of the point where artistry and athleticism meet. It's also riotously entertaining, especially for impressionable kids who will want to try this at home.

The show opens with nine acrobatic performers lined up across the stage, itching to get moving. And they certainly do, flinging themselves into the air. They then reappear on a darkened stage with pointed illuminations, including a glowing basketball and brightly lit wheels on skates, a skateboard and a bicycle. From here they begin to introduce themselves individually to the audience in segments that interact and overlap with each other in ways that are increasingly revelatory.

BMX champion Dez Maarsen is at one with his bike, spinning and balancing in seemingly impossible configurations. Juggler Michael Van Beek spins basketballs in mind-bending ways that make the audience gasp. Skateboarder Pim Wouters and inline skaters Jelle Briggeman and Sven Boekhorst soar across the stage, up and over the ramps, throwing shapes in the air. Freerunner Luis Alkmim bounces over, under and around each surface effortlessly. And breakdancers Thomas Krikken, Arnold Put and Deitrich Pott put on a series of jaw-dropping mini-shows.

Each of these young men includes dance moves in his act, which adds an unusual fluidity to their feats of physical strength. Tight choreography lifts the breakdance sequences into something unexpectedly beautiful, while the magnetic Krikken's inventive extended solo turn is easily the highlight of the show. Through all of this, there are musicians on either side of the stage: Vera van der Bie on violin and Annie Tangberg on cello shatter any perceived limits on their instruments in gloriously heavy metal style.

It never really matters that the show is a bit rough around the edges, leaving some key moments in inexplicable darkness while neglecting to hold the interest while ramps and platforms are transformed into new spaces. Because it's utterly riveting when these performers get back into action like an artfully eye-opening five-ring circus. They bob and weave around each other, playfully getting involved in each others' acts. And the all-moving, flipping, spinning, balancing finale is simply awesome.

For tickets and information: SADLER'S WELLS >
photos by Alex Brenner, Andrew Eaton, Studio Breed • 13.Apr.22

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