Mixed Bill performance in the Partick Centre, Birmingham, on 12th November 2005.
Saturday night was my third experience of the Henri Oguike Dance Company in the tiny but cosy Patrick Centre situated in the Birmingham Hippodrome theatre. My ticket only said ‘Mixed Bill’ so I wasn’t certain which pieces I was going to witness, but from experience I already knew that I was going to enjoy the night’s performance.
As I entered the theatre, I was delighted to see the stage full of Taiko drums, meaning the opening work was ‘Second Signal’, one of my favourites by this company. And second time around it didn’t disappoint. The three members of Taiko Meantime entered first, one standing in front of a huge drum, the other two standing behind smaller percussion instruments. Although the first beat of the drum made the audience jump, the piece was slow to start. However, suddenly the drummers kicked in with fast paced rhythms, literally sending the dancers into a frenzy, sprinting in all directions. Oguike likes to use the arms in wide, swooping motions, and here it was used to show aggression and ritualistic gestures, among others in a tribal style. About half way through the piece the dancers leave the stage and the drummers perform an extremely energetic piece of drumming, lunging back and forth as they struck their drums with one hand while twirling their other drumstick above their heads. I suspect this may have also been choreographed by Oguike, and it made a spectacular sequence. After this the remainder of the music was made using small cymbals as well as grunts and shouts. This was a very high-energy performance and an excellent opener.
Next was ‘White Space’. In each previous performance it has been my highlight of the show, and it was no different this time round. Set to harpsichord music by Scarlatti, and the dancers dressed in all white corsets, the piece reminisces the style of a court dance from early modern times, shown right from the start when the dancers enter and bow to each other. The piece is spilt into five sections, each one set to a different colour projected onto the backdrop. The most notable section, and indeed the best choreography in the entire show, comes in the third section which consists of a sexy duet between Adrian Lopez and Sarah Storer. The section is so full of wit and desire, and both performers embrace the challenge successfully and bring as much passion to the duet as any Latin American tango. This work brings out the best of Oguike’s choreography and is a great pleasure to watch.
‘Shot Flow’, comprises of a solo by Oguike himself and then a duet with Charlotte Eatcock. I remember overhearing another audience member after this piece finished, who simply said, ‘they just danced around in the dark’, and they were right, as lighting was certainly kept to a minimum throughout. The work began with a single light shining across the stage and Oguike danced behind the beam, and we only saw very quick flashes of a hand or foot as they passed through the light, a clever effect. Oguike clearly takes his work seriously and it shows, he had a strong presence on stage. However, once Eatcock entered the piece declined as not much happened from then on. At first they just stood on opposite sides of the stage, Oguike continually blocked and unblocked her light, before coming together in a dim square of light to perform a rather uninspired duet. Pedro Carneiro’s percussion score is equally bland, never developing in anyway. It is a shame that we only get to see Oguike perform in his solo or duet pieces, it would be really nice to see him perform with his company in a larger piece.
‘Seen of Angels’ concluded the nights performance. This was a stunning piece set to parts of Handel’s Messiah, which told the story of Jesus but focused on the Virgin Mary. The piece overflowed with emotion, which brought some audience members to tears. At the conclusion of the piece the apprentice dancers of the company enter to fill the stage and join the other dancers in a joyful climax, raising their arms towards heaven to celebrate Jesus living on and acting as a link between heaven and earth. This was a perfect conclusion for the show.
While the performance as a whole was very enjoyable, it was marred by the fact that during both intervals, the entire audience was forced to leave the auditorium. Speaking to the Patrick Centre staff, I discovered that it was at ‘the request of the company’, because apparently a technician had to climb up a ladder just a few feet away from the front row of seats. For me this was unprofessional, and having seen this exact same show last year I knew that it could have been avoided.