Sasha Waltz and Guests
by Charlotte Kasner
September 28, 2012 -- Sadler's Wells Theatre, London, UK
“Continu” opens with a loud and furious work played by a solo percussionist on tuned and untuned percussion. The women of the company jiggle and whirl in a ritualistic dance that hints of “Rite of Spring”. Waltz makes much use of unison, repetitive motifs, her dancers looking almost zoological, like some fantastic amoeba or Petri dish of dividing cells. Arms flail above heads and link, hands and fingers twitch in a Tourette’s dance of madness.
Are we watching some primitive tribe, or inhabitants of Bedlam or two warring factions? “Continu” morphs from its almost African percussive beginning into a dark mass where the mob of dancers becomes malevolent and threatening. Silence creates tension that explodes into grunts, gasps, leaps and falls. Bernd Skodzig's costumes are mostly black and flowing. Set against a black, stripped stage with subtle lighting, the audience become aware of a mass of arms, legs, heads and feet in a disembodied heap as the dancers roll in waved across the apron.
Eventually, the dancers line up across the back of the stage, one dancer standing sideways on centre stage left. He barks out the word “bam” and dancers slowly, slowly curl and fall as we realise they are lined up in front of a verbal gunman. Only one dancer remains as the bodies litter the stage. A furious chase ensues, uncannily and chillingly reminiscent of recent events in Norway.
The tension becomes almost unbearable in a rather long first half. It is sometimes difficult to take in the amount of detail. There is, however, a phenomenal level of discipline in this ensemble company as dancers move, time and time again as one. This culminates in an extraordinary move towards the culmination of the first act as two dancers standing down stage left lean at an angle without a twitch for an unconscionable length of time before snapping out of it in a violent movement in perfect unison. One feels that there was a great deal of counting and an intense level of rehearsal that has resulted in a company that move, breathe and think as one. Skirts snap and crackle angrily before the dancers sweep us into the interval.
The very short second half was a counterpoint to the first: costumes are white or biscuit-coloured and a white harlequin floor has been laid across the stage. The dancers eventually curl it up at the edges, hiding behind it whilst a pas de deux swirls across the remaining half until one dancer wraps himself up in the rest of the flooring as the lights dim.
Waltz does not give the audience an easy time. It is an exhausting but stimulating evening that bears a second viewing to catch more detail.
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