29 October 2012

Russell Maliphant's The Rodin Project at Sadler's Wells

I am trying hard to get more dance in to my cultural diary and as part of this I picked three shows to go and see in the new season at Sadler's Wells.

First up was Russell Maliphant Company's The Rodin Project, which I chose mostly on the reputation of the company.

I decided to go for the cheap seats so that I could go more often and was early enough in booking to get seats in the front-row in the upper circle, a dizzy height that I had not climbed to before. From there you get a good view of the interesting ceiling.

Good connections on the bus / train / bus got me there in time for a drink beforehand and was persuaded to buy a bottle of bubbly on the grounds that it was a better deal than buying four glasses. Made sense to me.

The Rodin Project opens slowly and classically. The three men and three women are classically dressed is loose white robes and they move in traditional balletic style with gentle flowing moves. There is some graceful rolling which while not strictly classical keeps within the traditional theme by being soft and fluid.

The music has an Indian twang to it. It is a new piece commissioned for the project and it does sound fresh and modern if not overtly so. 

The first half is all very pretty if inconsequential. There is nothing to argue with but nothing to get particularly excited about either.

A break to finish off the bubbly then back for the second half.

That is when everything changes. The dancing style becomes overtly modern and more physical. Arms and legs are bent in to exaggerated and unnatural shapes and the gentle rolls evolve in to more expansive leaps and tumbles.

The set is the same simple mound and wall that it was in the first half only now the soft white drapes are gone and they are revealed in their brutal industrial starkness. The wall come in to its own and is treated almost like gymnastics apparatus as the dancers moved over it in a way that defies belief and gravity.

In one scene two of the men dance together on the wall in a display of strength, grace and extraordinary movement. This is the highlight of the evening and draws loud applause from the appreciative and knowledgeable audience that knows that it is not meant to applaud mid-performance, but does so anyway.

Sadler's Wells have been good enough to put part of the section on YouTube.

If first half may is just pretty then the second is beautiful. The movement is fluid and vivid, strong but not aggressive, and in sympathy with the music that directs the action without overpowering it. This is not Swan Lake.

Perhaps the most pleasing thing about the evening was the full house. Dance this good deserves to be seen widely.

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