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Adam Cooper and Company

Mixed Bill

by RAK

July 12th 2003 -- Northcott Theatre, Exeter Festival ‘Exeter Ecstasy’…….a recipe from heaven…Double helpings of Cooper with extras of Hart, Harvey, Morera, Nunez and Yanowsky to go………and boy did they go!

We were told in the programme notes from Adam to expect an “energetic and highly physical programme which should keep you riveted in your seats.” Yes, we were warned! And I have never felt as excited by a performance as when Adam and Simon danced together professionally for the first time, in the world premiere of Wayne McGregor’s ‘Binocular’. To the thrashing, pumping rock of Marilyn Manson’s version of Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love”, so loud you could feel it coursing through you, the Cooper boys moved like lightning through McGregor’s complex, abstract choreography, arms a-blur, legs kicking, the movements sometimes synchronised, sometimes separate, and always intense and in-your-face.

But perhaps I’d better return to the beginning. Stephen Wicks (ex Royal Ballet and now a florist) ably and wittily introduced each piece, with a description of the work and the artists.  The programme opened with Adam Cooper and Laura Morera in Ashley Page’s ‘Walk and Talk’, with music by Orlando Gough. This short piece is ‘a day in the life of’ a couple’s tender relationship. The music is jazzy and rhythmic, the dancing subtle.  They alternately raise and lower each other, offering continuous support, he lifts her as she reaches up, he supports her when she lies down. He cradles her head with his jacket and lies next to her, a protective arm around her. It is a modern work, with Laura on pointe but in casual, flowing black pants and a black vest top. Adam wears a cream, linen-like mans suit with a white sleeveless T-shirt and regular black trainers. You can tell this is a relationship that will last.

Then Simon Cooper skips onto the stage, with his boxer’s boots, but in ‘white face’ make-up. You probably know the drama of ‘Hurricane’, the story of Reuben Carter’s framing and wrongful imprisonment, immortalised in Bob Dylan’s classic song.  Simon brings it to life, vividly portraying all the characters from the white jury to the corrupt police, and the fat-cat lawyers smoking their cigars. He springs and twists in his prison cell, you want to release him from the torment, and clear his name. He carries on skipping. Simon, you were a Hurricane - the intensity of your performance was so powerful.

Matthew Hart, who has the brightest smile ever seen, was not looking so happy in his next ‘Solo’ choreographed by himself when he was a rebellious student, danced to Shostakovich. His teenage angst, annoyance and irritation come through in the steps, sometimes convulsive, sometimes full of energy and defiance. He dances in a very brief pair of shorts, with no costume to distract us from the intensity of his emotions.

An excerpt from Vainonen’s ‘Flames of Paris’ gave us a display of ‘fireworks’ from Marianela Nuńez and Martin Harvey, guests from the Royal Ballet. A classical piece, with music by Boirs Asafiev, the dancers wear gaily-ribboned costumes in the French colours of red, white and blue. Martin’s jumps, leaps and turns were very dramatic. Marianela’s charming smile throughout her tricky fouette turns made it look so easy. It’s not, of course!

‘Jeux’, Peter Darrell’s classic love triangle at the tennis courts, had us all wondering just who Matthew Hart would choose, and presented with two such dainty minxes as Laura and Marianela, it was inevitable that some mischief would ensue. Just who gets shot we never know, nor who gets the poisoned cup. Cheers! Don’t drink that glass!

Hans van Manen is a Dutch choreographer, and his new work ‘Sarcasms’ was danced recently in Madrid by Adam and Zenaida. A grand piano is on stage, and Paul Stobart, pianist and conductor for the Royal Ballet, comes on in black tie and tails to play Prokofiev. Zenaida stands at the side of the piano, her arms folded, her elegant nose in the air. Adam dances around her, cajoling and needling her, she refuses to join in, to his exasperation. Women! When he gives up, she starts to dance, he is not included, she dances by and for herself. But they are always aware of each other, and the sexual chemistry is starting to heat up. She mocks him and taunts him but at last he holds her, and her legs are entwined around him with no intention of letting go! As they hug at the end, the pianist slams down the lid of his grand, and storms off!

Martin Harvey brought us a beautiful performance of ‘Afternoon of a Faun’, choreographed by Christan Uboldi to Debussy’s music. The faun is a very young man, at the beginning of his sexual awakening. He lies on a bed, resting on a pillow, reading a book, and slowly one leg stretches up and up. He becomes restless and frustrated, throws the book to one side and gets up to dance. His youthful energy has not yet found a direction but the future looks promising. Good things wait ahead.

Zenaida Yanowsky, also from the Royal Ballet, has an elegant and graceful body, tall and slim with the most expressive hands and face, and a back of willow-like flexibility. Wearing a bizarre, hooped, crinoline-type petticoat, over a flesh coloured body stocking with red knickers and red tipped breasts, she danced ‘Nisi Dominus’ to Monteverdi Vespers, choreographed by William Tuckett. William has broad tastes, from the darkness of ‘The Sandman’ to the comic ‘Wind in the Willows’. He is now resident choreographer at the Royal Ballet, and we look forward to more, beautiful pieces in the future. This work was abstract, despite the religious theme of the title and music.

A finale to round it all off – ‘The Nature of Touch’, was first shown at Exeter two years ago. One of Adam’s own compositions, the theme is of contact between individuals. This might be competitive or romantic, combative or caring. The company were joined by the young French dancer Anthony Kurt for this last work.

The audience were extremely appreciative throughout, which is hardly surprising as it was a tremendous evening. The dancers were exhausted but exhilarated after the show, having rehearsed without a break since 9am that morning. Thank you very much to Adam Cooper and Iain Webb for arranging the weekend and to all the marvellous dancers. I hope this tradition will be maintained.

Edited by Stuart Sweeney

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