Pros: Intriguing mix of work from new and established choreographers, performed with reverent panache by a great team of dancers, with some clever costumes and lighting design.
Cons: The mix of work felt a little unbalanced.
Like the Lilian Baylis Studio, tucked away in the shadow of Sadler’s Wells mighty main house, the Yorke Dance Project has a reputation for being small but perfectly formed. Rewind Forward is a collection of work by – or inspired by – famous choreographers Robert Cohan and Kenneth Macmillan. Both had inspired the company’s artistic director to create her own work – and also to set up a fruitful programme for young choreographers. The result: a refreshingly diverse mix of dance fans in a packed-out audience.
Twilight, the first piece, was impressionistic and brightly coloured, full of movement and optimism as well as an almost tangible reverence for the choreographer. The Vivaldi score was very traditional-sounding, straight out of the ball room scene in a TV costume drama, but that didn’t stop the piece from feeling contemporary and refreshing.
Sea of Troubles – the ‘headline’ act – was next: a lesser-known work by Macmillan. As an exploration of the grief-stricken mind of Shakespeare’s Hamlet (carefully described in the programme) it worked brilliantly. Inner turmoil boiled on stage: scenes were short and episodic, the male dancers’ jerky movements enhanced the jagged dissonant score. Deborah MacMillan’s flowing satin dresses and jacketless tuxedos gave off a slightly seedy post-wedding air that enhanced a general feeling of restless claustrophobia. The athletic, reverent cast did Macmillan’s choreography justice, and in a different programme, it would have been spellbinding. But alongside the shorter, less naturalistic, more contemporary pieces which made up the rest of the evening, I found it somewhat dated and out of place.
The second half began with Self, a new piece for three dancers by young star choreographer Charlotte Edmonds. Inspired by MacMillan’s Manon and the novel it was based on, the male protagonist’s inner struggle between religion and sex is played out in light and shadow. To yearning string music, one pair, in flowing dress (costumes by Peter Todd) make rhapsodic shapes in white light, while the third dancer lurks in Adrian Plaut’s long straight shadows like a malevolent spirit.
There was a numbness to the monochrome colour scheme in the next piece, Robert Cohan’s Lacrymosa. A lament for two bodies dressed entirely in black but often in full white light, it begins with only the sound of breath and bodily contact to break the silence. Eventually, the bodies find each other again as Dawn Upshaw’s soprano edges into the picture, but in a way I found unsettling. Perhaps somehow the ‘return’ promised in the programme, was of a lover no longer recognisable?
Peter Todds’s costumes contrasted clean lines with loud colours in Unthethered, the most visually arresting of the pieces. It begins with a woman trapped in a bright blue web/cats cradle structure. Freed from that, she remains ‘tethered’ by a stretchy cords sewn into her waistband. Unravelled from that, the three – and then another three – remain bound to each other, stretching away from each other, counterbalancing and reeling themselves back in like sewing bobbins.
From the queue at the bar in the interval (immediately after Sea of Troubles) it was clear that we all needed a break from being inside Hamlet’s mind. So much so, that the 20-minute interval stretched to 30, contributing to the evening ending up considerably longer than billed. None the less, this was an accomplished evening of new and established work by an ambitious, energetic young company.
Producer: Yorke Dance Project
Choreographers: Kenneth Macmillan, Robert Cohan, Yolande Yorke-Edgell, Charlotte Edmonds
Costume Designer: Peter Todd
Lighting Designer: Adrian Plaut
Box Office: http://www.sadlerswells.com/whats-on/2016/yorke-dance-project-rewind-forward/
This was a one-off performance.