12 November 2012

Freedom at Sadler's Wells

Freedom is decidedly strange and that is why I like it.

This was my second visit to Sadler's Wells in as many weeks and i was almost in the same seat too, near the centre of the front row of the vertiginous Upper Circle. The big picture below shows the view from there (taken after the performance, I'm not Bianca Jagger.

I think this is a great place to to watch dance from as you can see the depth of the stage and, therefore, the patterns the dancers make on it. The view from the Stalls lacks this depth and costs a lot more.

It is mostly a series of dances, all be it some unusual ones, to which a couple of surprises have been added in the shape of two light puppet stories.

The stage is suitably weird too looking like something out of a science fiction movie, a mash between Alien and the Cybermen. The white plastic pipes do little other than rotate a little and hide dancers but their weirdness is enough to justify their presence.

The music is unusual too. After a short piece of quiet mood music to open the show we are assaulted by a very loud Immigrant Song from Led Zeppelin. There was a lot of musical mood changes after that, and a even a tune or two that I recognised.

The dance was episodic with some common themes. There were scenes of violence, or the threat of violence, and others of tender love.

In possibly the most dramatic scene, and I think may favourite, three dancers flee from sky monsters projected in black across the stage while the music thundered dangerously. On each thunderclap the dancers were thrown violently on to the floor.

Falling, rolling and crawling on the floor were one of the dance memes that reappeared throughout the evening.

Also making a few appearances was the group dancing that bled off to the side of the stage or in to the white pipes ignoring the supposed boundaries of the stage. A simple technique but very effective.

The curiosity scenes are worth a mention for their oddness that intruded in to the mainstream dance.

In the first a male dancer mimed surfing on the waves. The oddness came from the female dancer who played the surfboard. We laughed.

In the second shadow puppets told the story of how a rabbit managed to capture a mermaid.

And in the final one a male dancer played with a small green animal that was projected on to his body. More laughs here.

Back to the main dance and the last two memes. The show's poster gives away the first, women bending over backwards to an extraordinary degree (and without falling over). The second was dancing with the arms, waving and twisting them to make unexpected shapes but doing so with smooth grace and elegant style.

Freedom was a mixed bag, deliberately so, and from that bag the dancers pulled a series of gems that delighted, surprised and excited.

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