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Henri Oguike

‘Second Signal’, ‘Seen of Angels’, ‘Shot Flow’, ‘White Space’

by Lyndsey Winship

February 9, 2005 -- Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

Henri Oguike has a gift for making dance that manages to be entertaining without sacrificing its integrity. Like his mentor, Richard Alston, music is Oguike’s muse, and this seems to be the key to communicating with his audience.

The interconnectedness of music and movement is clear in the opening piece of the programme, a new work, “Second Signal”. The dancers share the stage with three thundering Taiko drummers, and not only do the dancers illustrate the rhythms, beats rattling through bodies like bullets, but the drummers show off their own choreography too. As they prepare to strike the skins they move into long lunges and graceful arcs, just as much part of the performance as the company.

There’s a cool clarity to Oguike’s choreography but it’s peppered with snatches of humour and personality – such as when a dancer stroppily slaps her foot to the floor or the company bounce along on their fronts, bottoms bobbing in the air.

These are no identikit dancers: Charlotte Eatock is slight and precise while Nuno Silva is tall and muscular, with a giant leap to match. Sarita Piotrowski has more attack than most, really swiping the air and seeming to get there almost before the beat. They often dance in a line at the front of the stage, facing the audience for maximum impact, and it pays off.

The other new piece in the programme is “Seen of Angels”, set to excerpts of Handel’s Messiah. It’s quite an undertaking. This is music that glows, melts and thrills on a completely different scale to the live accompaniment or chamber works Oguike usually uses. It turns the stage into a different sort of space, dissolving the dialogue between dancers and musicians. We get a sense of drama unfolding, tinges of longing, wonder and regret. The effect manages to be both earthy and otherworldly, although it’s really Handel who’s doing all the work here. But why not?

The only disappointment is the endings of these two pieces, which just seem to fizzle out as if the choreographer is shying away from bold final statements.

Also on the bill is the duet “Shot Flow”, which Oguike performs himself with Charlotte Eatock. This is a much more stark, intimate affair, with the couple fleeting in and out of shadows, playing on emotional closeness and distance. Composer Pedro Carneiro performs his own music for marimba. With a light touch his phrases trip into unexpected endings and questions, like the dancers themselves.

And then there’s the return of White Space, Oguike’s stylish satire on courtly dance and ritual. I’m not sure what the relationship is between the Mondrian-esque backdrop and the Scarlatti soundtrack but never mind, it seems to work.

Oguike is a real talent, who will no doubt continue to explore and experiment with steps and scores. The work might not always reach choreographic perfection but that’s no reason to feel guilty about enjoying it so much.

Edited by Staff.

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