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George Piper Dances

'Approximate Sonata,1,V,' ' Mesmerics,' ' Non Exuent,' ' Critical Mass'

by Cassandra

September 24, 2003 -- Sadler's Wells, London

George Piper Dances has become a very popular group that certainly deserves an enthusiastic following. Of course a stint on TV hasn’t harmed an already high profile and they appear to go from strength to strength.

They opened last night at Sadler’s Wells starting the evening with William Forsythe’s pretentiously titled “Approximate Sonata,1,V.” It opened with William Trevitt moving slowly forward and grinning at the audience, opening his mouth wide in what appeared a fly catching exercise, vaguely miming to the vocal of a crowded musical montage interspersed with shouted instructions, presumably from the choreographer. He was eventually joined by Oxana Panchenko for some rather expressionless partial double work, but the piece dissolved into the end of what appeared to be a rehearsal, just a work in progress it seemed. An odd concept.

Trevitt and Nunn are well known for their video diaries and in each half of the programme the ballets were separated by their amateur filming. We see them journeying first to Frankfurt to see Forsythe, and, then – more rewardingly, I can’t help thinking – to New York to link up with Christopher Wheeldon. For some reason I couldn’t quite grasp, we were also shown scenes of Trevitt frolicking in his bath, treating us to the admittedly impressive sight of his glistening torso. He handled his towel somewhat teasingly, I must report.

The second work was “Mesmerics” by Christopher Wheeldon, a magnificent piece for all five members of the company. This was originally seen as a trio but has now been expanded, tailored no doubt, to the unique qualities of this group. Wheeldon’s ingenuity in creating beautiful images impresses me more acutely with every new work of his I see. He has a wonderful instinct for music, and in this ballet to chamber music by Philip Glass the steps become an added dimension to the music. Totally abstract, the dancers interact in almost random ways, contacting, dissolving and reforming into those ingenious groups and sensuous poses that are so much a hallmark of this choreographer’s output. I don’t hesitate to recommend this as the first must-see ballet of the season.

The second half of the programme began with Cathy Marston’s “Non Exuent”. A work for the two female company members, Panchenko and Zamora (the Ballet Girlz?) Before the start of this work we heard the voice of Marston herself telling us how the work was inspired by two Shakespearian female characters, Lady Macbeth and Ophelia. From what Ms. Marston had to say about them it was very clear that her understanding of Shakespeare was limited: “She’s got it completely wrong!” I heard from the woman sitting next to me under her breath. I won’t disagree. Between two lines of light bulbs and wearing short clinging dresses, Lady M. wrings her hands and Ophelia wallows in an imaginary pool but sadly it doesn’t add up to much.

Before the final work of the evening we get more of the video diaries showing us a little of the rigours of touring as Trevitt and Nunn prepare to perform at provincial theatres up and down the country, often getting lost on the way or turning up at the wrong venues. These two have a gift for humour and for getting a laugh out of the most mundane situations.

Finally we saw Russell Maliphant’s “Critical Mass”, that ever-popular duet seemingly danced part in fun and part in anger. With pile driving aggressive accompaniment interrupted by a middle section of cha cha rhythms. Nunn and Trevitt dance both with and against one another, even indulging in a slow motion punch-up. It’s a great ending to the show guaranteeing that the punters go home in a good mood and the performers presumably collapse in a heap from sheer exhaustion.

 

Edited by Jeff.

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