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David Hughes Dance Company

‘in company’, ‘L’Après-midi d’un Faune’, ‘El uno y medio’, ‘[4:Freeze-Frame]’

by David Mead

September 16 , 2005 -- Linbury Studio Theatre, Royal Opera House, London

For the first tour of his recently launched company, former Rambert dancer David Hughes included three works created for him by three of Europe’s leading contemporary choreographers, Siobhan Davies, Javier de Frutos and Rafael Bonachela, alongside an ensemble piece of his own.

Davies’ version for him of "L’Après-midi d’un Faune", while pleasant, was the weakest of the four works on offer. Hughes seemed to spend most of the time on the floor, often "resting". Many choreographers have attempted to work with Debussy’s music and it’s difficult not to compare versions. Put against, say, that by Robbins or Kylian, while this one was not unpleasant to watch, it really struggled to hold one’s interest.

In de Frutos’ "El uno y medio", we are told Hughes is describing Jason’s grief at the loss of his murdered children [from the Greek myth of Jason and Medea -- ed.]. While the movement is full of passion and Hughes’ face clearly shows emotion and grief over something, it would be difficult to guess what had we not been told. During the piece Hughes twice stops, walks off stage and returns a few seconds later, all the time the flamenco music continuing to play. As a choreographic device it is certainly unusual and catches the attention, but you are left wondering why.

Hughes’ own choreographic contribution to the evening was "in company", danced to music by Vivaldi. For this he was joined by the other three company members, Rachel Morrow, Kally Lloyd-Jones and Alan Lambie. A pleasant enough piece, the work was full of turns and jumps and always kept you interested. In some ways it was quite reminiscent of some of Richard Alston’s works, but without quite catching the music as he can.

The best work of the evening was saved for last, Bonacela’s "[4:Freeze-Frame]", another piece for all four dancers and recently seen at the Edinburgh Fringe. Danced to an odd mix (but one that works) of early-13th century and contemporary music, it moves from an opening duet full of tenderness and intimacy to physical dance full of energy and strength. In amongst the huge variety of movement and emotion, the partnerships constantly change. Everyone seems to dance the same vocabulary and everyone lifts everyone else; there is no differentiation between male and female. Even the costumes are the same, with everyone dressed in pleated short black skirts. It’s a piece where everyone is equal in every way.

With this programme and his excellent dancers Hughes has aimed high and pretty much hit the target. This is going to be a difficult act to follow.

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