Magazine article The Spectator

Game of Contrasts

Magazine article The Spectator

Game of Contrasts

Article excerpt

Siobhan Davies Dance Company; Compagnie Maguy Marin Queen Elizabeth Hall

An interesting feature of this year's Dance Umbrella is the constant, well-calibrated juxtaposition of different dance forms. Whether intentional or not, this game of contrasts reveals that, unlike what is happening in ballet, in contemporary dance each sub-genre has retained its stylistic and formulaic distinctiveness. Such artistic diversification stems mainly from the many factors that prompt the various examples of `new dance'. Although it would be a mistake to talk of national imprints or influences, there is little doubt that most of the differences to be detected among the subcategories of the same choreographic genre derive from both the cultural background and the social environment of each choreographer or company.

Indeed, the art of Siobhan Davies transcends the constraining boundaries of what could be referred to as purely British dance culture. As a friend of mine pointed out, Davies's choreography stands out for possessing unmistakable 'British' qualities. These, however, have nothing to do with that stylised, exterior `party mannerism' which an American dance scholar accused British dancers and choreographer of having not so long ago. On the contrary, the Britishness of Davies is to be found in the profound, almost introvert reasoning that permeates every step and every phrase without leading to jazzy dramatic solutions or a flashy display of emotions.

The lack of any passionate outburst, in which one can see a reflection of that British self-control we foreigners admire so much, is not, however, synonymous with lack of choreographic and artistic drive. The in-depth reasoning releases a tantalising amount of theatrical tension that inevitably engages the viewers in an exchange of emotions with the performers. The reasoning is not pedantic and it does not impinge on the immediacy of the choreography, which stands out in each case for its crystal-clear yet always pleasantly unpredictable construction.

The composite programme performed at the Queen Elizabeth Hall last week probably the best I have seen so far highlighted all theseQualities and more The three dances illustrated the diverse stages of the development of Davies's creativity, thus showing how this significant choreographer is constantly renewing her choreographic modes through a thorough exploration of movement and a continuous reassessment of her distinctive vocabulary and syntax.

Davies's latest work, Bank, an intense, beautifully exasperating piece which focuses on patterning, is a radical move forward from the canons that informed both the visual richness of The Art of Touch and the refined choreographic and textual shadings of White Man Sleeps. …

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