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Companhia de Danca Deborah Colker

'Tatyana'

by Charlotte Kasner

January 31, 2013 -- Barbican Theatre, London, UK

The introduction in the programme states that Tatyana is a re-imaging of Pushkin's “Evgeny Onegin”, a narrative dance work that centres on Tatyana's perspective. Well you could have fooled me.

Colker decided to depict Pushkin himself in the piece, danced by the feline Dielson Pessoa who cavorted around the set like a demented monkey, although who, for some reason, also reminded me of Andy Warhol. In fact, he couldn't have been anything less like the part-African Pushkin with his famous black, curly hair. Most of the emphasis seemed to have been put on Pushkin exploring the woodwork, supposedly a tree but more arachnoid than dendritic. Dancers occasionally moved the 'legs' around, rather gingerly. At least gave them several levels to work on.

The remaining characters were ported in multiples; quantity not equating to quality alas. The narrative, such as it was, was mostly obscure, but I think that Tatyana was represented by dancers in bizarre pink dresses, very short with a basque atop. They looked more like saloon dancers from a Western. The movement vocabulary was vulgar, much flashing of crotch and lots of second position. Olga was represented by girls in green minis that looked rather like bathing costumes.

The men were mostly in black, with the odd top hat which presumably made a nod towards the original period. The only clear section, as far as narrative was concerned, was the duel, fought between the 'Onegin' dancers wielding canes and the 'Lensky' dancers wielding fans. Yes, fans. No, I don't know why either, but they snapped them breezily in spite of everything.

The music was a hideous mash up of Classic FM Russian favourites with a bit of Gorecki and a couple of contemporary composers thrown in for good (bad?) measure. All was blasted out at maximum decibels and, when it wasn't being distorted by the volume, it was deliberately distorted or just truncated with no attempt to segue into the next section. The second section was accompanied mostly by chunks of Rachmaninov's 2nd Piano Concerto. Has Colker not seen “Brief Encounter”? It is impossible not to reference one of the most much loved romances whilst watching a production that displays anything but. Anyone who didn't know that “Onegin” features thwarted romances would have been none the wiser after seeing this production. The dancers obviously had a lot of technique but it was deployed to very little purpose here.

The programme photographs, by the way show mostly the men, with just the cover showing a pas de deux and one mid-shot of the women, so maybe Tatyana is not that central after all. For all the resemblance it bore to Pushkin's tale, it may as well have been called “Eliza Doolittle”.

Deborah Colker clearly has a fan base who will whoop and stamp regardless, but the majority of the audience in the less than full house were rather more muted.

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