Magazine article The Spectator

Sombre Journey

Magazine article The Spectator

Sombre Journey

Article excerpt


Sombre journey

One of a Kind

Nederlands Dans Theater 1, Sadler's Wells Theatre

Inspired by Ashton

Royal Ballet, Linbury Studio Theatre

Performance-makers like to experiment with creative modes and ideas. It is a natural urge in a world in which 'new' is synonymous with survival. Jiri Kylián's quest for the new started a few years ago and it has led him through all sorts of processes with different degrees of success. Despite its title, his new work, One of a Kind, stands out as a consolidation of those processes. Most signature traits of his early and internationally acclaimed creations have disappeared. The use of powerful ensembles filling the stage with continuous movement has thus been replaced by a minimalist approach. Bodies are often isolated, occupying limited spaces with their movements. And, although there is still an unmistakably Kyliánesque dynamic flow, this, too, appears to have undergone some radical rethinking, for it is provocatively fragmented.

Indeed, such a drastic refutation of long-established canons is the chief ingredient of One of a Kind. Still, this sombre journey into a psychological maze fails to take off, for it indulges in performing modes that have long passed their sell-by date. Both the limitations imposed by quirky sets (by Atsushi Kitagawara) and the interaction of the dancers with suspended geometric forms and lighting (by Michael Simon) are trite and old hat. Similarly, the repeated choreographic challenges to the classical vocabulary and the use of a score (by Brett Dean) that swings between original passages and a collage of different authors are barely a novelty. Only the superb talent of Nederlands Dans Theater 1's dancers makes the three short acts acceptable, even though they, too, fall victim to a dated context.

Meanwhile, the Royal Ballet has concluded its centenary celebrations of Frederick Ashton with an evening of new choreography. The Inspired by Ashton programme opened with a refined neoclassical piece, Memento, by the former Royal Ballet principal Anthony Dowson. The influences that informed his artistic vision came across clearly in this plotless dance, set to piano music by Rachmaninov. Without slipping into a regurgitation of Ashtonian formulae, Memento is a modern-day tribute to the classicism in which Ashton firmly believed, finding its apex in the central duet, beautifully performed by Deirdre Chapman and Martin Harvey. …

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