Review: SÃO PAULO DANCE COMPANY, Sadler's Wells

As it stands; the night isn't as good as it should be

By: Feb. 12, 2024
Review: SÃO PAULO DANCE COMPANY, Sadler's Wells

Review: SÃO PAULO DANCE COMPANY, Sadler's Wells Considering the São Paulo Dance Company was founded in 2008, it’s taken them 16 years to perform in the UK! But the wait is over…with Artistic and Educational Director, Inês Bogéa bringing the troupe to Sadler’s Wells for a two night run followed by a tour of England until March 23.

The company is offering a triple bill starting with Anthem (2019) by Goyo Montero, and it isn't a good start. No one can deny the dancers’ commitment or prowess, but the piece is predictable, consisting of contemporary dance tropes. Sepia tones, smoke infused atmosphere, barely there lighting and an omnipresent sense of unseen doom/evil are the name of the game. The movement feels like an onslaught of dance for the sake of it in perpetual unison, and is only momentarily broken by rag doll-esque duos, pack mentality torture of a poor individual and someone giving birth. Not for me.

Gnawa by Nacho Duato was created in 2005, restaged for the SPDC in 2009, and is of a different ilk. And even though 19 years old, the movement generally feels currently purposeful. Form and dynamic communicate clearly throughout, and the dancers move with apparent grounding and articulation. Midway there's an arresting pas de deux which positively reeks of L'Après-midi d'un Faune. The couple evoke a heady dialogue of coquettish and sensual behaviour and it's intriguing to watch. Some of the group work feels a little ‘done’ but the North African music by seven different composers means one can simply focus elsewhere in those moments.

Closing the evening is Cassi Abranches’ Agora (2019), her third commission for the company, and definitely what I'd been waiting for. Agora allows for an opportunity to contemplate Brazilian culture, in relation to movement, music, vibe and embodiment.

I saw easy swing, syncopated footwork, Capoeira-style agility and some actual light and shade in choreographic structure - and probably for the first time during the entire evening. Abranches understands the power of subtlety, and this is most evident in her use of walking - unrushed and assured. And it's much appreciated. All that said, the last ten minutes things start to feel a bit samey.

I wonder if two Spanish and one Brazilian choreographer is the right balance for the company to programme? 16 years isn't a lifetime…but it also feels enough of an incubation period to develop homegrown talent. As it stands; the night isn't as good as it should be.

São Paulo Dance Company is on tour until March 23.

Photo credit: Iari Davies