Magazine article The Spectator

Feat of Endurance

Magazine article The Spectator

Feat of Endurance

Article excerpt

Giannandrea Poesio

Compnia National de Danza

Sadler's Wells Theatre

At first he was just a superbly talented, drop-dead gorgeous dancer, whose name prompted all sorts of silly snack-food related jokes. Then he proved himself to be one of Jiri Kylian's worthiest disciples. Finally, he took over the directorship of what was soon to become one of Spain's most important dance companies, thus becoming a great name in the European contemporary dance scene, as well as the recipient of several accolades.

Nacho Duato's ascent to fame, however, is inversely proportional to the decline of his creative genius, at least judging by what we have seen recently. And last week's run of the Compania Nacional de Danza at Sadler's Wells confirmed this. The Duato triple bill was one of the most taxing endurance tests I have been through in 20-- odd years of dance writing. It is a pity, for the dancing was superb. But no display of perfect bodies moving with great artistry can compensate for the absence of ideas and the self-indulgent repetitiveness of passe solutions.

What I found particularly worrying was a complete lack of contrast and diversity underscoring the three items on the programme, making them look like part of the same uninspiring creation. One wonders what has happened to the captivatingly red-blooded, fast-paced action of works such as Jardi Tancat, the 1983 dance that 'revealed' Duato, or the subtly ambiguous humour and innovative images of his Remanso, arguably one of the best all-male trios ever seen.

Indeed, early symptoms of decline were already evident in Por Vos Muero, that pompous 1996 hymn to boredom imported to this country by Ross Stretton during his much criticised and short-lived artistic directorship of the Royal Ballet. At the time, however, die-hard fans of Duato justified Por Vos Muero as the inevitable 'artistic slip' many great choreographers suffer from now and then. Alas, it was not.

Txalaparta, a 2001 dance that takes its name from a wooden musical instrument in folklore, a gigantic version of which hangs ominously over the dancers, kicked off in an engaging way, with the performers gliding down a slope at the back of the stage, before starting what looked like a competitive display of physical skills. …

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