home
forum
features
reviews
interviews
events
best-of
links
gallery
whoweare

 

Russell Maliphant Company

"Two," "Knot, "Stream," & "Sheer"

Brighton Corn Exchange, Brighton, UK
April 3, 2002
By Lyndsey Winship


For all that they are accomplished and assured performers, Russell Maliphant's company dance like introverts. During the duet Knot where two identical male dancers fold and unfold, wind and unwind around the pivot of their intertwining arms I was longing to shout, "break free!" for one of the dancers to disentangle himself, to face the audience, to leap from the grasp of the choreography and assert a personality. But that was just one frustrating moment in a programme of masterful dancing. What Maliphant does give us is poise, subtlety, development, equilibrium and moreover, what he is known for - a fusing of movement and light. Here, the affinity between the dancing body and the impact of lighting design is akin to the musicality of Alston or Morris.

The tone is set from the opening gesture. A square spotlight frames Dana Fouras. Centre stage, feet welded to her spot. The resolve of that stark quadrilateral reflects the focus of her solo. With soles set in the stage, arms frame her face and limbs experiment with their hinges, extensions and rotations. The mechanics of the body are oiled to perfection. Quickening in speed while the light from above at first catches corners, then blurs the movement like a slow shutter, making Catherine Wheel circles. Slim arms turned into butterfly wings and the stage into a cinema screen.

Maliphant won the Time Out Live Outstanding Collaboration Award for his piece Sheer, which forms the second half of the programme. Two dancers form silhouettes as spotlights illuminate the back wall - a notion that immediately sets the agenda by lighting the set and not the dancers. They are merely a pair of shadow puppets, shifting to the ebb and flow of a body's music while a whispering voice repeats "She always wondered if he heard her." The couple (Maliphant and his partner Fouras) read each other's movements in sympathy, gradually edging towards one another. Arms cross but don't touch. It's close but not intimate. Slowly, slowly gaining trust until they can lean and lift, or clasp hands like a keystone between arching arms of a tentative tango. All the while the dancers' shadows play out the same duet across the floor and against the wall, slightly sharper or blurred at the edges. Moving in and out of the light, multiplying couples having the same conversation, the same misunderstanding, the same tender moment.

Only fleetingly do the dancers escape from the earth, a brief surge in a lift or leap. The movement is meditative, compact and fluid. Feet retrace steps, delving over, under and through, trying to find another way round this body, yet still appreciating the quality of a simple clean straight line (perhaps something left over from Maliphant's ballet days). He finds a movement, moulds it, kneads it, multiplies it. In Stream, where three dancers begin to twist, winding at different speeds like the cogs of a clock - seconds, minutes and hours - the twist of a wrist spreads to an arm, becomes a turning torso, a spinning figure then a movement in a circle. He uses a motif like a craftsman but sometimes mislays the erratic genius' touch.

Compared with Michael Hulls' inspired lighting, Maliphant's musical partners lack such structural imagination. During the first half, the soundtrack is a poor partner but in Sheer, Sarah Sarhandi's score is detracting, meandering and clumsy. Sampled whispers and mournful strings make some nice sounds but don't manage any coherent development. It doesn't seem to communicate with, influence or react to the dancers. And I wondered (like the whispering voice says) if they really heard it at all.

 

Please join a discussion of this performance in our forum.

Edited by Marie.


Submit press releases to press@criticaldance.com

For information, corrections and questions, please contact admin@criticaldance.com