A choreographic symphony of remarkable construction

By: Oct. 31, 2023
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Review: MAUD LE PLADEC-TWENTY-SEVEN PERSPECTIVES, Sadler's Wells "A choreographic symphony of remarkable construction" feels like the perfect way to describe Maud Le Pladec's 2018 work Twenty-seven perspectives.

I wonder why London has had to wait five whole years to see this extremely worthwhile piece? A global pandemic perhaps…

The word modern is bandied about quite often. It's a useful, but also problematic label, yet I don't have another option here. As Le Pladec's modernity feels fresh, original, propositional, and all the while acknowledging and using existing conventions to propel itself forwards.

The stage is a bare, black box with bright, unapologetic lighting. The white flooring finishes in upward curves on both sides, simultaneously defining the space as well as allowing it a sense of continuity.

The ten dancers populate the stage in stylish workout gear and go about their business with a heady concoction of internal intention and external, spatial awareness. Le Pladec uses space with ease, offering premeditated yet naturalistic groupings and an overall structure that includes unison, individual phrasing, solos, duos and group work.

The sound design by Pete Harden, based on Franz Schubert’s "Unfinished Symphony No.8 D759" is a revelation. He's taken the existing score, run it through a blender and then blasted it into outer space. Think Hans Zimmer on the trip of his life. I love the juxtaposition of epic classicism and electronic deconstruction. Especially during one of the solos that can only be described as a poetic alarm.

Le Pladec's movement is as she describes "pared-down", though this doesn't mean it's lacking in detail or purpose. I connect more with the intention behind the physical as opposed to how it looks. The agenda seeming all about the feel and what it communicates in the moment.

The experience is like that of pick n mix sweets: there's plenty on offer, sometimes you don't know where to look, and making a definitive decision can be hard. The language is heavy with dynamic, from legato line to staccato locking. The continual space is made more tangible through spatial tension and focused projection, with Le Pladec using whimsical circles, defined diagonals and a jump/upper body reel motif to reboot the layered construction when needed.

The choreography absolutely acknowledges the rhythmical line and time signatures of the original Schubert throughout. And I don't dislike this tactic, but it also feels a little obvious at times. I prefer when Le Pladec takes risks made available by Harden: discord, counterpoint and contradiction peak my interest.

Photo Credit: Konstantin Lipatov

The lighting (and set design) by Éric Soyer also plays a hugely important role in the work's success. Challenging and enhancing the piece's movement and philosophical underpinnings concurrently: surprising blackouts, eerie minimal lighting and periods where it feels like the generator is about to fail.

I wonder if the creative team visited another galaxy during the research and development period, as that's where the work's setting takes me; somewhere new and less predictable. Not relying on shock tactics to keep one engaged, but rather dripping in newness throughout.

The dancers often leave the stage during the piece, though not in only the conventional way. We see them enter the auditorium and sit in row A, or on the stairs at the side leading up to the first circle. This element brings a site-specific feel which is welcome, though the repetition gives it less impact in the end.

I haven't seen Le Pladec's work before, and I'm absolutely eager to see more. Especially the solo and duo components. The solos feeling focused on the individual dancer as opposed to the material they execute, and the duos including interesting work concerning release and support.

The piece 'ends' with all ten dancers spinning on the spot in idiosyncratic ways - a corporeal solar system of sorts, which isn't the first time this notion springs to mind. The perpetual closing signifies the work's monumental identity as well as (one assumes) Le Pladec's inquisitive, ongoing approach to her work. And I'm totally here for both.

Maud Le Pladec-Twenty Seven Perspectives is at Sadler's Wells tonight (31 October)


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