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October '99 Newsletter from London


October Preview

After two relatively quiet months for dance in London, October sees the throttle pushed right down to the floor, with lots of performances of the highest quality from classical ballet to cutting-edge contemporary.

Dance Umbrella is already in full swing, bringing a feast of world class dance to London over a six-week period in no less than seven venues. For a full listing and detailed information, go to the Dance Umbrella website. On a wholly prejudiced basis (well, there's a change!), here are some of the performances I am looking forward to:

- A Mark Morris visit is always an event and it will be interesting to see his own company perform 'The Argument', having seen the White Oaks production earlier this year. Ismene Brown interviewed Morris in 'The Daily Telegraph' on his future plans.

- Richard Move brings his much-lauded homage to Martha Graham to the Brick Lane Music Hall and single-handed puts the stretch jersey industry back on its feet.

- Those who enjoy fine choreography, terrific dancers and well-judged humour should rush to The Place to see the Aletta Collins Dance Company. I saw two of the pieces in the show earlier this year, but I'm keen to see them again and a new solo for Sharon Wray should also be a treat. Donald Hutera in 'The Times' enjoyed the earlier performance, more than somewhat.

A busy month at Sadler's Wells also includes two ballet companies. Irek Mukhamedev returns with a group of friends, including one of the most feted ballerinas in the world, Altynai Assylmurtova. Apart from his many other virtues, Mukhamedev is a fine partner and so we can look forward to great things from this duo. Later in the month San Francisco Ballet, one of the top US companies, is in residence and in the space of one week offers no less than three programmes - an opening night Gala, a mixed bill and Helgi Tomasson's production of Swan Lake. Details of both visits are on our Dance Calendar.

The South Bank Centre's South Asian Dance season continues with an evening of Bharata Natyam performed by Malavika Sarukki. She will also give a Masterclass for dancers, teachers and choreographers working in contemporary dance, underlining the eclectic nature of the South Asian arts scene.

September Round-up

Mavin Khoo and Akram Khan
This stunning pair of dancers set the South Bank alight with a virtuoso display of the contrasting disciplines of Bharata Natyam and Kathak respectively and The Purcell Room proved an ideal setting for their work. After first half solos in their respective styles, the second half showed them in an extended duet, 'No Male Egos' choreographed by the two dancers, which took the traditional dance disciplines and combined them with elements of contemporary dance and a Western choreographic aesthetic to provide a spell-binding fusion. All in all, a fine showcase for dance and multiculturalism. If you would like to read more, here is my review on the Danceservice UK website.

Wild Air
Sadly, I was out of town and missed the London performances, but the critics have continued to be impressed with the first full-length work by Siobhan Davies. As I included a review last month, I thought readers might be interested to see the 'Wild Air' tour diary of Cath Quinn, a dancer in the company. The log, on the Danceservice UK site, provides fascinating insights into the development of a work on tour, the hectic life of a dancing mother and which Italian restaurants to avoid in Brighton.

DV8's 'The Happiest Day of My Life'
Lloyd Newson has a formidable reputation worldwide for his work over the past decade and UK audiences currently have the chance to see this new piece, which shows relationships in a club culture setting. I found the Queen Elizabeth Hall performance riveting, with everyday movement transformed into stunning dance as shown in a complex, yet effortless sequence in, around and over a sofa. The dreams of romantic bliss of the first half were symbolised by some magical, darkly lit aerial work. In the second half, a living room surrounded by a swimming pool provided an imaginative setting for the vividly characterised frustrations and disappointments which follow when these dreams remain unfulfilled. David Dougill was impressed in 'The Sunday Times'.

The complexity of his shows means that Newson works on the basis of a new piece every 2 years and this is one of the reasons for the long periods between DV8 UK tours. However, I do wish we could see more of this exciting company than the sparse rations we currently get.

The Trocks
The popular Trocks brought two programmes to The Peacock and I saw the second one. The dancing seems to be getting even stronger with some fine new recruits and the more recent pieces showing greater subtlety of wit than of old. However, 'The Dying Swan' can still be relied upon to put all thoughts of subtlety to one side and bring the house down.

The high-spot for me was a Mystery Pas de Trois, where two leggy 'ballerinas' came on with arms linked and then separated revealing a diminutive male partner, who almost came up to their shoulders - well at least when they were not on point. Some lovely dancing followed. Josephine Leask in 'The Guardian' thought The Trocks rather wonderful and she won't get an argument from me.

I hope you've enjoyed this Newsletter, but if you didn't or if you have any thoughts about what you would like to see in future editions, why not put a message in our Forum. Hope that you get the chance to see some good dance in October or be like Alexei Sayle and get up and do it.

Stuart Sweeney (courtesy of London Dance Network)

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