La La La Human Steps visited London in March with their most recent show, 'Salt', which has been touring the world for the last 18 months or so. I have had a soft spot for this company ever since the 80s, when they started to appear on TV in 5-minute bursts of raw, hyper-kinetic contemporary dance to rock music. However, their visit to London a few years ago, for their previous full length work '2', the law of diminishing returns applied sharply after the first 20 minutes or so.
'Salt' marks a change of technique, but not broad concept, as Lock has become a devotee of point work, performed here to live piano, cello and everyday sounds. Initially surprising, it makes sense when you realise how much faster a dancer can spin on point. Gone are the rugged gymnastics of his one-time muse Louise Lecavalier, to be replaced by lightning quick pirouettes, echappées and bourées in jerky combination with busy gestural work and supple contortions.
The pace and precision of the performers thrilled me for longer this time. However, after about 30 minutes, the limited palette of movement proved too much as steps and sequences were repeated over and over again. We saw the girls performing cross-legged flicks on point several hundred times during the evening and numerous off-centre entrechats by the boys. I have to report that the London critics were united in their view that the show was 2-3 times too long for the content.
As with '2', there was some attempt to use multi-media. At intervals there were projected, close-up images of babies, two women and a ball flying repeatedly towards us accompanied by a deafening bang. The images did not seem relevant, were not attractive and in the case of the balls were positively irritating - a case of three strikes and out. It's not that I don't like such use of effects. The night before I had seen a UK company, V-TOL, who also use multi-media displays, but to much better purpose.
The theatre was full and many stayed behind for a post-performance question and answer session with Lock and a couple of the dancers. Contrary to what we would expect, injuries are not a major problem despite the hair-raising speed and, as evidence, we were told that that none of the shows on the current tour have had to be cancelled. They explained that, because they have several months to learn the works at slow speeds, the dancers build up muscle memory that helps to protect them against injury.
From the audience comments and overheard conversations, it was clear that La La La etc had pleased a lot of people and, I suspect, had brought some newcomers to see dance, which has got to be a good thing. I would be interested to see some of the work that Lock has done for other companies, but only if it is packaged in shorter time slots.
<small>[ 10-18-2002, 09:31: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>