Dance Umbrella Birthday Gala

by OdileGB

September 9, 2003 -- Sadler’s Wells, London

On Sunday the 2003 Dance Umbrella season opened with a Gala to celebrate the Festival’s 25th birthday and what a fabulous night of dance it was with veterans and newcomers from the UK and the US offering their tributes.

Trisha Brown, one of three guests from the US, effortlessly filled the stage with her tranquil solo ‘If You Couldn’t See Me’ without once facing the audience. Billy T. Jones on the other hand lingered in one corner of the stage for ‘Ionisation’,a solo choreographed to Edgar Varese’s piece of the same title. In just 3 minutes Jones seemingly isolates every single muscle in his body. I doubt even a single cell would dare to disobey his command to move independently.

Last but by no means least on the list of US performers we saw Mark Morris, who had brought his own musicians to play on stage Lou Harrison’s ‘Serenade’ for Guitar. Dressed in a white top and a black skirt, Morris flowed through a serious of dances using a variety of props, like a black fan and castanets. His lightness and fluidity of movement is simply spellbinding.

Scottish Ballet shone in Richard Alston’s ‘Dangerous Liaisons’. During the second half of the evening, Alston, who danced in the very first performance of the very first Dance Umbrella 25 years ago, paid tribute to the festival’s founder and Artistic Director Val Bourne who in turn modestly praised her many collaborators behind the scenes over all those years.

English National Ballet’s Agnes Oaks and Thomas Edur performed Wayne McGregor’s ‘2 Human’. Oakes, although in pointe shoes, could not be further from the cliché of a airy and serene ballerina. Dressed in a punk-like outfit she recklessly threw herself into the choreography, pushing her body to its limits and clearly loving every minute of it.

McGregor cut a lonely melancholic figure in his solo ‘Xenathra’, specially created for this Birthday Gala. Two works by Siobhan Davis were also on offer. ‘The Swan’ created to Saint-Saen’s famous music and the witty ‘She Bit Her Tongue’. The spoken text tells a story from the inside outwards with more and more details added with every run through. Performed by Tammy Arjona and Deborah Saxon, who repeatedly signed the spoken text the overall effect was stunning and left me breathless by the end of it.

The evening also had room for fun and humour. Students from the London Contemporary Dance School impressed with the perfect execution of the complex patterns of Charles Moulton’s ‘Nine Person Precision Ball Passing’. Royal Ballet Principal Zenaida Yanowsky was hilarious as drunken pussycat in net stockings in the world premiere of a solo created by William Tuckett.

Mathew Bourne’s ‘Spitfire’ proved to be the perfect closure to the evening. The sight of the 6 males dressed in white underpants, Adam Cooper among them, going all macho to the sounds of the famous music of the Don Q Pas de Deux was in a word - priceless - and I was not the only one leaving the theatre with a big smile on my face.


Edited by Stuart Sweeney

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