by David Mead
November 15, 2012 -- Sadler's Wells Theatre, London, UK
Sixteen dancers cross the stage, left to right, again and again. It starts with them on all fours. Every so often there is a change, but each time there’s an overlap. They spin on hands and feet. They slither, they slide on one leg, they roll foetus-like… Sometimes people are overtaken by the flow. Occasionally someone stops and sits. But it’s only ever for a moment. Then they are up and off again. They seem driven by an urge to move forwards. Much of the time there is a sense that they are not masters of their own fate. They are moving forward not because they want to, but because they have to. All the time, the electronic music by Mexican electronica artist Fernando Corona (a.k.a. Murcof) ploughs ever onwards matching the dance.
The opening is quite alluring. The dancers looked like a herd of slowly moving creatures. There was a distinct sense of mystery. There are occasional differences in the movement, but for the most part, everyone simply melts into the mass. There’s certainly no sense of personality. After ten minutes or so, the interest dulled. Every time there was a slightly longer gap between two dancers entering I found myself hoping that maybe this was the end of this part of the piece and we might see a scintilla of a new idea. But then, and here’s the weird thing, it got to a point where I didn’t want it to stop.
Small moments start to become big landmarks. The biggest of all comes about half way through when someone actually walks across. Before long, a man and a woman stop and exchange a glance in the stream of bodies. It is as if neither can quite believe what the other is seeing. For a while it almost gets sentimental, especially when the strains of “Sway” start to be heard. They want to touch it seems, but neither knows how. The song is, though, the signal for easily the most complex dance phrase of the evening to unfold. Soon after came the one surprise moment of the piece. A woman, in red, which made it even more dramatic, rolled at speed from right to left. It was the only time anyone moved against the flow.
There is a point to all this. “Sideways Rain” is about the evolution of Man and about that line of development that pushes ever on, always forwards, always in the same direction. The title itself, which could hardly be more perfect, is a meteorological expression where the rain, something very common, becomes special by going sideways, something that only happens because a force drives it.
The end comes after a section where the dancers run across, each time with a line of thin cord. Before long there are tens upon tens of lines from wing to wing. It was like watching one of those old analog TVs with a decidedly dodgy picture. It’s a moment before you realise that the whole cast is now naked. For the last few moments Guilherme Botelho takes us back to the beginning; still moving forward, but a suggestion, perhaps, that we can never escape who we really are.
For all my early doubts, it is impossible to deny that Botelho realises his idea really effectively. All credit to him to having the confidence to stick with essentially one idea for so long. The movement itself may not be the most challenging in the world, but his fully committed dancers kept the mood going throughout. When the end came, it certainly didn’t feel like it had been an hour long.
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