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About the Change

The Royal Ballet...
     ... & Random Dance Company

Duo:logue: ‘Symbiont(s)’, ‘Aeon III’, ‘brainstate’

April 2001
London, Linbury Studio

by Lynette Halewood

Duo:logue reviews

‘Symbiont’ reviews

Last year of RB reviews

Random DC reviews

Wayne McGregor worked with dancers from the Royal Ballet for the first time last year to create ĎSymbiont(s)í, a piece which won the Time Out award for Outstanding Achievement in dance. He has returned this year with members of his own group, Random Dance Company, to join Royal Ballet dancers for further collaborations. Symbiont(s) is repeated as the opening work, for RB dancers: the second item, Aeon (also made last year) is for Random dancers: and the final item is a new work, brainstate, specifically created for dancers from both companies. All three works share the same costume and lighting designers (Ben Maher and Lucy Carter respectively), and there is a real sense of cohesiveness about the three works: although they could stand separately, itís interesting to see the same bits of vocabulary repeated and changed over the course of the evening.

The Linbury seemed very full, and it was certainly a more eclectic audience than the ROH normally attracts. It was well received, particularly the final work. The RB dancers seemed to take to McGregorís style with real relish. Unlike the recent event in the Clore where some of Matthew Hawkins dancers appeared alongside ballet dancers from the Royal, here where dancers of both companies appeared side by side, and partnered one another, there didnít seem to be any striking differences between them in terms of physical types, and not much by way of difference in technique.

There seemed to be an influence of Forsythe about, more noticeably in the first work. Leaving aside the choreography for a moment, the costuming (bare legs, no tights) and the lighting - lots of small pools of focused light, some movements barely lit at all - both recalled some Forsythe productions quite strongly. Re-reading that, it sounds rather more of a criticism than was meant - whatever the influences are, the finished work from a design point of view is well thought through and smoothly executed. I like the way the costumes for the opening Ďblackí work are re-appear in blue on the opening couple in the second work, whose costumes then diversify much more, rather as the movement does. Perhaps the uniformity of the costumes for brainstate played a part in the apparent uniformity of style. All dancers, male and female, wore exactly the same outfit, a beige affair with a kind of half skirt at the back.

Itís easy to see why Symbionts was so popular. It consists of a series of linked duets, solos or trios, for seven dancers, each short, concentrated, intense. Initially, the girls wear pointe shoes but these are later discarded. The opening duet was extremely well done by Deborah Bull and Edward Watson: she has always been comfortable with fast and athletic dance, but it was interesting to see Watson in this kind of work. Recently heís always appeared as some tragic or touching figure: here was a reminder just how strong he is in purely technical terms, though he still has a dominating stage presence. The other men (Tom Sapsford, and Tom Whitehead, sporting a remarkable haircut straight from a mid-sixties rock band) also came off well. The steps were at times more visibly rooted in ballet than others. (All the works are credited to Wayne McGregor in collaboration with the dancers). It was a dark, spiky piece, which they threw themselves into with fierce concentration.

Aeon at first looked as if it was going to follow a similar pattern to Symbionts, with a strong performance in an opening duet: but then it seems to become more diffuse and diverse. The atmosphere (and music) was much more mellow. Thereís no photos of the dancers in the programme so itís hard to pick out any individual. They did appear a very cohesive group, and Iíd be interested to know how long they have been appearing together.

brainstate opens with group dances for the men and then the women. The total cast is eighteen, though they are rarely all deployed on stage together. It looked a convincing collaboration - there were no sections which looked as if they belonged only to one company or another. The choreography made some deliberate references back to the earlier works we had seen that evening: McGregor has invented his own dance language in which there are hand signals, gestures which seem to suggest something just out of your grasp - a phrase overhead in a foreign language which you recognise but canít quite interpret. Itís cool, contained and elusive. It keeps you watching intently: all these works are well crafted and nicely judged, not overlong.

Another rewarding evening in the ROHís smaller auditorium at modest prices, courtesy of the Artistís Development Initiative. Itís on until the 22nd, and is repeated at Snape Maltings on the 29th.

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