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Sadler's Wells Sampled

by Ana Abad-Carles

February 4, 2007 -- Sadler's Wells Theatre, London

As part of their newly formed partnership with New York’s City Center, Sadler’s Wells presented a new initiative called Sadler’s Wells Sampled as part of their spring season. The project is modeled after the “Fall for Dance” event that takes place in New York every autumn, and serves as an evening’s presentation of different dance styles. In the performance that I attended, the main forms presented were contemporary dance, Korean martial arts, flamenco, ballet and hip-hop.

The evening started off with Emanuel Gat’s “Winter Voyage”. As an opener I felt that it was too long and repetitive. The performers were good, but for a festive occasion, it felt too dry and serious.

Next, the comperes for the evening, Jeanefer Jean-Charles and Pearl Jordan, introduced the event to the audiences. Though this kind of presentation can be highly successful, on this occasion, the comperes seemed a bit at a loss with each other and their audience and went on for too long during each of their appearances. This made the various acts start on a low note instead of a high one, which defeated the purpose of having them introduce the performers. My favourite misstatement of the evening was the one that preceded ABT’s performers, in which we were informed that this was a great occasion because ABT had not performed for the past 17 years… They simply forgot to add “in London”.

The second act was Jasmin Vardimon’s “Justitia”, an extract from Vardimon’s last work. The irony of the work, together with the pure physicality of the dancers made this performance much more enjoyable than the preceding one.

YEGAM Theatre’s extract from “Jump” was simply hilarious and a more fitting piece for an evening such as this. Not only were the performers riveting in their execution of martial arts steps, but the comedy elements were so well timed that the whole theatre burst out with laughter throughout their act. Their portrayal of a dysfunctional Korean family that communicates through martial arts routines was simply brilliant.

Eva Yerbabuena’s “Espumas del recuerdo” was the flamenco presence that preceded the Festival about to open at the theatre. Yerbabuena’s flamenco is of the purest kind: bata de cola, peinetas and all the traditional uses of the dress and shawl were displayed to the delight of the audience. The musicians that accompanied her performance well deserved the ovation they received.

American Ballet Theatre, which make their long-awaited visit this week in the theatre, brought Angel Corella and Gillian Murphy, who performed the “Black Swan Pas de Deux”. Both seemed predisposed to entertain, rather than perform a polished classical pas de deux. There’s nothing wrong with this, though I found Murphy’s exaggerated movements too brusque at times and not at all subtle. Corella’s solo was correct, but nothing spectacular. It was not until the coda that both dancers seemed to be able to relax and feel comfortable onstage. Corella delighted the audiences with superb pirouettes, as did Murphy with her fouettés.

The last act of the evening was Franck II Louise’s “Drop It!”, the hip hop piece that a large part of the audience was waiting for. I found the first ten minutes totally devoid of choreographic or theatrical interest. The dancers, dressed as robots, did not perform highly original robotic movements. It was not until they got rid of their costumes – and this vocabulary- that the dance really took off… and how! Some of the combinations they performed on the stage were simply brilliant and their technical accomplishments were at all times thrilling to watch and wonderfully presented, as there was at no time for the sort of “show off” feeling one gets when watching hip hop. The group work was fantastic, the rhythmic qualities of these dancers faultless and, as already said, some of their technical achievements… well, nearly beyond human ability!

As a first attempt, SW Sampled is a welcome addition to the theatre’s season, however, more work needs to be put into the presentation and timing of the different acts.

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