A worthwhile piece of dance theatre.

By: Apr. 12, 2024
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Review: THE POWER (OF) THE FRAGILE - MOHAMED TOUKABRI, Sadler's Wells The Elixir Festival returns to Sadler’s Wells with the same, integral mission: “rethinking perceptions around dance and age.” And Tunis-born, Brussels-based dancer and choreographer Mohamed Toukabri brings his duo work The Power (of) The Fragile to London, which sees Toukabri and his mother (Latifa) perform the piece focused on reuniting, the mother and son relationship and notions of being home and away.

As a work it's unquestionably multifaceted, which means the experience feels both value for money and a tad over busy.

The piece begins with Mohamed explaining the theatre space to Latifa in a combination of (Tunisian) Arabic, French and English. It's a subtle way for all to get comfortable and familiar, and they both come across as easy, relatable people.

From here the work takes many twists and turns. Part expressionist dance, autobiographical prose, tender pas de deux, freestyle raving and movement as live sculpture.

We learn a lot about both of their journeys to date: Latifa's liberated travels as a young woman, and the complication of being Tunisian in relation to freedom of movement in later life. And Mohamed's move to Europe aged 15, brushes with Maurice Bejart, formal dance training experiences and ultimately Belgian residency and citizenship.

Both move with individuality; Mohamed with acute skill and broad range, Latifa with naturalism and a sense of longing for what wasn't to be. Most poignant is their tactile partnering, suggesting the platonic intimacy of family members and the inevitable role-reversal of the life-cycle: parent to child, child to parent.

The last 10 minutes travel into the deeper end of avant-garde and why not, as they've completely entranced their audience by this point, but in reality it does feel a little on the bizarre side.

It's an honest, genuine, worthwhile piece of dance theatre, but it could be an even more powerful experience if there was a smidgen of structural rethinking and editing…I'd lose around 15 minutes off the current 80.

Considering all of this, the image of Latifa vaping whilst regaling the story of her youth as Mohamed headspins all to hard-core house music and strobe lighting effect will stay with me for a long time; if not forever.

The Elixir Festival continues at Sadler's Wells until 20 April

Photo Credit: Christian Tandberg.


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