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Bonachela Dance Company - 'Voices'

by Lindsey Clarke

June 14, 2006 -- Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

Bonachela Dance Company is launching itself on the crest of a huge talent wave. The man himself, taking his stellar progress via Rambert, Kylie Minogue, and the Place Prize, has just won an award at the first ever Biennale Danza e Italia for “Soledad”, the duet he created for “Probe”. That’s Antonia Grove and Theo Clinkard, by the way, two of the hot young talents with impeccable contemporary dance pedigrees that make up Bonachela’s current company. Then there’s Amy Hollingsworth, skipping out of Rambert, the muse and star of Bonachela’s beautiful duet for female dancer and violinist “Irony of Fate”. They are joined by Delphine Gaborit, Alan Lambie and Khalame Halsackda, who all have gorgeously cool photos on the BDC website and are undoubtedly rising stars. Expectations and excitement were high then, for how the wave would break on the South Bank. It did so in an uncompromising and aspirational fashion.

“Ahotsak” opens promisingly abstractly. Three pairs of dancers in casual, contemporary dress move to the suggestive sound of the tide or the traffic coming and going, alternately clasping together or capriciously repelling each other. A bleak sense of urgency builds around the brooding, gorgeous, interacting bodies.

Bonachela and his dancers have created movement that visibly feels the pull of gravity and the passage of breath through the body. It recognises the equal strength and dynamism of the dancers and eschews formalism. It spills and tumbles all over the stage.

Two members of the London Sinfonietta perform Berio’s “Naturale” on violin and percussion with haunting taped voice and, even when the music changes to verge on gypsy jig, there’s no levity here. Intermittently, the six dancers are triggered together in energetic explosions and threaten to bring the piece into glorious focus, but it never quite crystallises. The physical vocabulary for this piece evolves and mutates through it and perhaps it’s the compulsion to push the boundaries that leaves it oddly dissatisfying and hard work to watch. Has the “movement junkie” overdosed, or is this a transitional piece en route to more complete things?

“Set Boundaries” is a more familiar multimedia work looking starkly stylish. A film banner, depicting duplicated Korean border guards and strongly invoking the oppressive atmosphere of the prison camp dominates a black stage in which the dancers are trapped in squares of restrictive white light. The piece operates in a more formal realm of contemporary dance, yet the dancers, uniform and vulnerable in white pants and vests, commit with devastating and clinical abandon. Clinkard, Grove and Hollingsworth perform a mesmerizing closing trio to the spoken words of Sherzad Marco, “a Kurdish asylum seeker currently awaiting deportation in the UK”. The awfulness of the case study, belied by the deadpan delivery, is enacted in the striving, desperate, aggressive, dejected mix of movement; the performers moving as one entity, perhaps one embodiment of voice.

This was an ambitious, serious minded programme that defied most expectations, but was a truly interesting and challenging evening of dance, featuring a massively talented team all round (and was a welcome night off football.)

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