Made at Sadler’s Wells

Another feast for dance lovers is on offer at the Festival Theatre – Made at Sadler’s Wells comprises three contemporary pieces (or masterpieces, as they are described in the publicity material, and I wouldn’t disagree with that description). The company is London based but thankfully tour regularly across the UK to showcase some of the best of their work.

Russell Maliphant’s Afterlight (Part 1) premiered at Sadler’s Wells in 2009 as part of their celebration of Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes and it has since then won two National Dance Awards and an Olivier nomination. Maliphant’s choreography was inspired by the drawings of legendary dancer, Nijinsky, and he has created a beautiful work of swirling colour and movement. Check out Nijinsky’s work online and I’m sure you will agree he has captured its look and spirit perfectly. Thomasin Gulgec gives a stunning solo performance with lighting and animated projection by Michael Hullis and all of this is set to the music of one of my favourite composers, Eric Satie. What a way to start the programme, absolute perfection.

The second piece, Faun, choreographed by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui was also premiered by Sadler’s Wells in 2009 as part of their Ballet Russes celebration and it is equally perfect. It is a reworking of Nijinsky’s famous ballet L’Apres- midi d’un Faun, set to Debussy’s original score with additional music by Nitin Sawhney. The faun, James O’Hara, awakes and stretches in the dark forest lit by shafts of sunlight. He meets a young female faun, Daisy Phillips, and they tentatively examine each other before joining together in a wild but tender coupling. Their movements are rhythmic and flowing and almost acrobatic, in fact I winced at some of the contortions they put themselves in to but it looked incredible. This is very different to Cherkaoui’s last visit to Edinburgh with Sutra, his collaboration with the Shaolin Buddhist monks, but equally as spectacular.

The final piece is Wayne McGregor’s UNDANCE, a collaboration with contemporary composer Mark Anthony Turnage and visual artist Mark Wallinger. This was my least favourite of the three as this kind of music is not to my taste, I found it jarring and discordant and, as a result, couldn’t fully appreciate or engage with the piece. It takes an interesting look at movement and the ten dancers run, jump, dig, hammer, rise and fall and, at one point, mystifyingly walk around in a circle in complete silence. However, it is a good contrast to the previous two pieces and worth including.

There was a noisy and boisterous young audience in the stalls, it turns out they were there as they are taking part in a project in conjunction with the theatre to encourage wider participation in theatre and dance. There were a few giggles at inappropriate moments and applause at the wrong times, but in the main they watched with rapt attention and applauded enthusiastically at the end. Great to see a young audience enjoying such a high quality show and hopefully this will encourage and inspire them for the future.

Irene Brownlee