Friday 24 November 2023

Dance: Duets in the dark

Young Associates: Mixed Bill
Lilian Baylis Studio, Sadler's Wells • 22-23.Nov.23

This year's Young Associates showcase features four very different duets, each with its own distinctive tone. They are all performed on a dark stage with very strong lighting, as seen in the images...

Falling Forwards
choreography Maiya Leeke
dancers Joshua Hawkins, Emily Lue-Fong
music Randolph Matthews

Maiya Leeke's work emerges from her background as a jazz saxophonist, and as a dancer she appeared in Barbie. This piece features a range of intriguing juxtapositions between two dancers, a male and female wearing loose, flowing costumes that sometimes seem to get in the way. They move against each other, on their own and sometimes in unison, creating eye-catching shapes. On the soundtrack, breathy rhythms give way to music as the choreography shifts from sharp movement into much more musical expression. The couple comes together to perform a series of lovely moves before separating again. The movement is demanding, beautifully performed to create engaging characters and a story that's involving and even moving. 

Ida’s Solace
choreography Elisabeth Mulenga
dancers Laurie Ward, Steffi Fashokun
music by Travis Yu

Elisabeth Mulenga takes inspiration from cinema as she explores the human psyche. This piece is challenging and sometimes abrasive, as two women in calf-length dresses writhe in unison and then separate to strike poses that have echoes of horror, sometimes juddering or breaking into huge facial expressions. Performance art rather than dance, the movement is often awkward and difficult, deliberately revealing the strain both in the individual and in the way they try to interact with each other. It also sometimes feels aggressive and violent. Much of this is alienating and even disturbing, but it's also eerily intimate. So even as it pushes us away, we are intrigued.

At the Foot of the Brae
choreography Roseann & Sula
dancers Yu-Chien Cheng, Naissa Bjørn
sound design Jan Brzezinski

With a plinth in the centre of the stage, this piece features two androgynous dancers who are both male and female, performing in ways that suggest a queer struggle for connection and meaning in life. It's a moving piece, choreographed theatrically by Roseann and Sula to echo their experiences growing up in central Scotland. This involves evocatively staged extended solo sections that include enormous movement, revealing huge effort and big emotional outbursts. Then when the dancers are together, they fly around the stage with real power. But there's always a struggle, a push and pull. It's a lovely depiction of gender fluidity, a cry for hope.

My Glimmer Boo
choreography Blue Makwana
dancers Lauren Jenkins, Tanisha Addicott
lighting Amelia Hawkes

Dedicated to Matthew Perry, this cheeky piece uses friendship as its central theme, opening with a voiceover introduction to two social media stars. They emerge grinning and snapping selfies, adeptly performing a riotously athletic TikTok style routine before shifting their costumes for a modern dance section. This includes emotional turns on their own and as a pair, leading into a more classical dance piece that's elegant and empowering. Then the phone is back as they merge all three styles in a whizzy, inventive way, performed with intricate skill to a remixed version of the Friends theme. The music all the way through is clever, and the red and black colour scheme inventively interacts with the lighting. It's also very sweet.

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photos courtesy Sadler's Wells • 22.Nov.23

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