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Henri Oguike Dance Company

The Energy Between Light and Sound

by Rosella Simonari

July 12, 2005 -- Teatro Cecchetti, Civitanova, Italy

Rain has the vertical power of dispersing a crowd just before a formal ceremony, and rain delayed the inauguration of the refurbished Cecchetti Theatre foyer, causing people to stay indoors and wait. Once the rain ended its watery course, they stepped outside and gathered around the mayor, Erminio Santinelli. The ribbon was cut and a brief discourse was given. Then the artistic consultant of Civitanova Danza, Gilberto Santini, introduced the programme for the Civitanova Danza Festival 2005 season with a particular emphasis on the performance by the Henri Oguike Dance Company, which was to open the Festival later on during the evening.

Henri Oguike met the audience for a brief conversation at 7.30 pm, and was very kind to do so even though he was having some technical problems with the final rehearsal of his pieces. The audience had the precious chance to learn a bit more about the choreographer's approach to movement, an approach where music, especially live music, seems to have a special place.

This became instantly clear watching "Front Line", Oguike's signature piece, which was chosen to open the evening. A string quartet at the back of the stage played the 9th Quartet by Shostakovich while a sextet of dancers repeatedly formed a line destined to contantly be dissolved. There is an energy in this piece which stems from the silky sonority of the music meeting the movement - a fruitful dialogue which is very rare in today's contemporary dance. In particular, I appreciated the contrast created by the feet repeatedly beating hard on the stage and the fluid sounds produced by the string instruments.

"F.P.S. (Frames per Sound)" followed "Front Line", and introduced a completely different atmosphere. Unfortunately, Oguike was unable to perform his solo piece due to a knee problem. However, Adrian Lopez and Nuno Silva were very intense and precise in conveying what Oguike himself had, during the above mentioned conversation with the public, described as the tension between design and rhythm. The warm effect of the color in the brown costumes by Elizabeth Baker and the use of light, often consisting of a single floodlight turned towards the dancers, highlighted the intimacy of this piece, made of gestures and movements often performed at ground level.

The night was closed by a choral piece, "Seen of Angels", which featured the whole company. In this case, the relationship between movement and sound is more explicit.  We have an unusual musical choice for a contemporary dance piece: the "Messiah" by Händel.  An interesting part of this piece was what I would call the 'hug theme' - the repeated hugs that the members of the company exchanged with each other throughout the piece. It was a sweet, strong manifestation of body contact, the creation of small cells in the dynamism of the dance phrases, where usually each dancer followed his/her own path.

The Henri Oguike Dance Company's performance was an Italian premiere and exclusive, and was
well received by the audience of Civitanova Danza as well as by those who came to Civitanova from different parts of Italy to watch them.  It is a sign that this town on the coast of Italy is becoming a more and more an important venue for hosting high quality dance.

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