CCN-Ballet de Lorraine at Dance Umbrella's “The Future Bursts In”
Compagnie Amala Dianor, CCN-Ballet de Lorraine: “Somewhere in the Middle of Infinity” / “For Four Walls” / “Sounddance”
Linbury Theatre, London, UK, October 24, 2019
Cunningham would have turned 100 in 2019, a centennial that’s seen institutions
around the world flock to commemorate the prodigious American choreographer. There
have been exhibitions, seminars, master classes and of course performances,
including the ambitious “Night of 100 Solos,” commissioned by the Merce
Cunningham Trust and featuring 75 artists dancing in tandem across three cities.
Lorraine recently shared two contributions at London’s Linbury Theatre as part
of “The Future Bursts In,” the closing programme of the 2019 Dance Umbrella festival.
“For Four Walls” is a new piece inspired by a long-lost ‘dance play,’ while “Sounddance”
revives a rapid-fire work from the ’70s. Cunningham created the latter after a
nine-week residency with the Paris Opera Ballet, defying the classical rigour
he’d encountered with fleet, thorny pivots that tumble off their axis. The piece
features a storming score from David Tudor and an ornate drapery that sweeps
the cast into its pleats.
young dancers make a whirlwind entrance, shooting out of the curtain like
hornets from a hive. The choreography doesn’t unfold so much as explode, blasting
us with taut curves and bounding stag leaps. Motoring against a soundscape of
mechanical whirs, they take on a machine-like gait, bobbing on straight, splayed
legs. In the edgier sequences they’re beautiful androids firing off a quicksilver
waltz. The piece wavers, though, when the group scampers in unison, losing a
touch of its elegance.
In “For Four Walls,” Petter Jacobsson and Thomas Caley pay tribute to a theatrical number Cunningham created with John Cage in 1944. There’s a rigorous formalism at work in the tangled movement patterns here, and in the engrossing scale, which trades in both the grand and the intimate. Hulking mirrors multiply the cast into a tangled, unbridled legion. Performers spill in from the wings, flooding the stage with bodies real and reflected. To one side, wreathed in fading light, is Vanessa Wagner barking out notes in a mesmeric piano performance.
Despite its upright shapes and slick, muscular cascades, the dancing eschews ostentation: the dancers mostly face the mirrors, greeting us indirectly, and weave their combinations independent of each other. The reflection goes two ways, transmitting the audience’s image in large format upstage, drawing us into the work quite literally. Even the pianist’s domain is manipulated: at one point she exits the stage to make way for a haunting choral interlude. It’s highly abstract but never untethered—a striking tribute to a dancemaker who loved to play with the boundaries of space and time.
A third piece
rounds out this programme: “Somewhere in the Middle of Infinity” by the
Senegalese choreographer Amala Dianor, who performs in the work alongside Ladji
Koné and Pansun Kim. The trio seasons loose, informal textures with
high-throttle moves, slowing and quickening their rhythm to a roving
soundtrack. There are dashes of hip-hop swagger, jolting Afro-dance and even martial
arts as the dancers cast their bodies across various planes, striking multi-level
triptychs and dipping into unplumbed pockets of space.
especially expressive in a pulsing slide section where the dancers rock to a
heartbeat thrum, grabbing at the spaces before them. Another highlight sees the
group dole out high kicks and flinging leaps to a swelling electro track. There’s
a serene glow to their efforts, even when the contrasting styles don’t quite
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