Diverse, full programming

By: Nov. 24, 2023
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Review: YOUNG ASSOCIATES MIXED BILL, Sadler's Wells Sadler’s Wells is a busy old place, with numerous performance spaces, departments and associated initiatives. One being the very worthwhile Young Associates programme which helps “talented dance artists aged 18-24 giving them a crucial first step into their careers as choreographers”.

The artists involved are given a “two year professional development course tailored to them” which includes opportunities to present their work as part of the Sadler’s Wells artistic programme - hence the Young Associates Mixed Bill performances in the Lilian Baylis Studio.

Falling Forwards by Maiya Leeke

Falling Forwards by Maiya Leeke is a strong opener to the programme of four works being presented by the Young Associate makers.

The two dancers start with distance and an associated sense of stalking, and as the piece develops so does their proximity and movement scope. Leeke's language is equally sophisticated and physical, and shifts easily between verticality, surprising fall, articulate dynamic and energised swing. The score by Randolph Matthews is built upon eclectic use of breath and percussive beat, and the complex, infectious scape infiltrates the movement, and its subsequent relation to the ever-shifting, rhythmic, high-brow lighting design.

The second work; Ida’s Solace by Elisabeth Mulenga is a totally different proposition. Much more in the realm of experimentalism, the piece has little obvious dance phrasing to connect to, making the overall experience somewhat discombobulated.

The two dancers wear silk dresses evoking a period feel, and their interpretation suggests zombie-esque, possessed beings. Eyes rolling back into the head, relentless rocking to and fro, blue liquid spewing from a mouth etc. It all felt quite Netflix series-influenced to me, and perhaps that's where Mulenga's future may lie; movement direction or horror film production. As currently speaking, the dance element needs more development and connectivity to evolve.

Opening the second half was At the foot of the brae by Roseann & Sula of Tough Boys Dance Collective. Their work already has a relevant, recognisable voice and this creation confirms the fact.

At the foot of the brae by Roseann & Sula

What's interesting about their creativity isn't necessarily the specificity of the content, but rather the context, intention and energy execution of the whole package.

They offer clear thinking points: the dialogue between consent and force, play and aggression. They use pedestrian movement and develop it into intricate phrasing, but not in an obvious way, so consequently nothing feels forced, and the experience just unfolds in an intriguing, organic manner. They're also clearly building a portfolio of dancers who understand their agenda. This all suggests more worthwhile work to come. Exciting stuff.

And I must acknowledge the sound design by Jan Brzezinski; a heady mix of intergalactic style composition with energised beats.

Closing the diverse programme was MY GLIMMER BOO by BLUE MAKWANA; a somewhat surprising addition to the night. It's a work of numerous faces: commercial hip-hop, sassy, sexualised dance, latin-flavour moments and a jazz-infused component, with the latter making a lasting impression.

The movement language travelled beautifully, with original, dynamic punctuation and subsequently made me contemplate the likes of Bob Fosse and Twyla Tharp. Which is no mean feat. Elsewhere we saw the influence of popular culture gimmickry, displayed through social media informed phone use and the realisation of memes. I found it all a bit predictable, but my young audience counterparts lapped it up, so who am I to argue? MAKWANA’s two dancers did her absolutely proud, as did all of the dancers in the four pieces.

The walk to the station post show felt different than usual, as my senses seemed more awakened than pre-performance. I'm quite sure it was down to the diverse, full programming and how engaging it was throughout. So kudos to all involved - from mentors to performers, as that's how people should be leaving the theatre; more alive than when they entered.

Young Associates Mixed Bill was performed at Sadler's Wells from 22–23 November.

Photo credit: Sadler's Wells


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