Magazine article The Spectator

Sugar-Free Diet

Magazine article The Spectator

Sugar-Free Diet

Article excerpt

Dance Sugar-free diet Companhia de Danca Deborah Colker The Barbican The Wind in the Willows Linbury Studio Theatre, Royal Opera House

Two weeks ago, on my way to the Barbican, I suddenly realised that Deborah Colker's new creation, 4 par 4, was to be the last sugar-free dance work I was going to see before the unavoidable annual invasion of Christmassy ballets. Luckily, it was not a disappointment. A distinctive trait of Colker's choreography is an often amazing display of physical skills crossing the boundaries between dance and acrobatics. Yet, the Companhia de Danca Deborah Colker is anything but one of those colourful and highly fashionable circus-theatre troupes that keep popping up here and there. In Colker's hands, the physical feats of each member of the company contribute to the creation of a subtly conceived game of narrative tensions that transcends any cheap exploitation of mere bravura.

Not unlike the breathtaking Casa, seen last year, 4 par 4 relies on a progression of dramatically disjointed images, in the best dance-theatre tradition. The opening sequence is, arguably, the most effective. Secluded within triangular-shaped cubicles, male and female performers interact in what would appear to be an attempted escape from the suffocating atmosphere of their individual microcosms. The sight of women standing against and trapped within corners evokes a number of tragically familiar images, such as isolation, oppression, depression, punishment. Their male counterparts, who shift in their places and/or lower themselves into the triangular spaces, can hardly be regarded, though, as their rescuers.

The interaction between the moving bodies generates a rather unsettling series of considerations, for it is never clear whether those who manage to climb out of their cubicles are willing, or are forced, to do so. What is certain is that, in the display of acrobatic strength that informs the whole scene, the stereotypical gender differentiations become more and more blurred.

The relationship between the male and female dancers, however, also appears erotically charged. Indeed, a subtle, now dark, now humorous, eroticism is what informs the rest of the first part. It is a pity, therefore, that the same heightened dramatic tension is not maintained in the second part, in which the dancers perform daring jumps, turns and movements amid a forest of vases, arranged in orderly narrow lines all over the stage. …

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