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Wim Vandekeybus & Ultima Vez
Wim Vandekeybus: The P.T.
Anderson of Dance? They both like frogs...
by Lyndsey Winship
February 8, 2004
-- Sadler's Wells/London
In Blush, choreographer and director Wim Vandekeybus brings together
an international company of ten fearless performers who dance as if gravity,
stamina, physical limitations, pain and dignity are of no concern. He
creates for them thrilling bursts of movement centred on precarious power
struggles: jostling and dueling at a frenetic pace, launching themselves
wildly into the air and chasing their insatiable desires.
Live music from David Eugene Edwards and his band cranks up the intensity,
creating a heady, heavy backdrop for the action on stage. Most impressive
is Vandekeybus' amalgamation of film and dance. It's something many choreographers
attempt, few successfully, and it works this time because the dancers
and the screen literally interact. The screen is made of strips, reflecting
a watery image, which the dancers dive through with a dramatic splash.
We then see them encased in the rippling blue on the other side, like
ethereal mermaids or drowning Ophelias. It might sound gimmicky, but it
There are plenty more striking images. A huge pendulum lamp descends into
the centre of the stage and swings in slow circles, illuminating each
character one by one. It's a cinematic device, like editing between parallel
scenes and disparate characters stranded in their own peculiar circumstances
– Paul Thomas Anderson's film Magnolia comes to mind.
In Blush's exploration of all things to do with love, there are
no hearts and flowers. It's the darker, less palatable side of this four-letter
word that demands all the attention. Vandekeybus shows up the animalism
of his assembled specimens, reduced to bodily functions, moving with raw,
rabid energy and stalking their prey. But Peter Verhelst's texts, whispered,
shrieked, and declaimed by the performers, salvage some sobriety and seek
to spin out the complexities of the human soul.
So far, so ambitious, but Blush's agenda to shock starts to get
tiresome after two hours – a frog in a blender, a revving chainsaw, a
plentitude of naked flesh, endless shouting, sex, and violation. The company
is playing at full volume from the off so after a while there's nowhere
left to go. Subtlety doesn't really come into their vocabulary and in
the end, perhaps surprisingly, this forceful theatrical onslaught doesn't
actually leave much of a mark.
Edited by jenai
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