Akram Khan, 'If
Not Why Not'; Sara Rudner, 'Heartbeat'; David Gordon and Valda Setterfield,
'Private Lives of Dancers'; Siobhan Davies Dance Company, 'Bird Song';
Richard Alston 'Roughcut' (excerpt)
October 23, 2003
-- Queen Elizabeth Hall, London
Photo of Akram Khan
by Roy Peters
Thursday’s "Silver Celebration"
celebrated Dance Umbrella’s 25th anniversary with a line up of very different
works. The evening started with the UK premier film screening of Akram
Khan’s "If Not Why Not" accompanied live by Cellist Philippe
Sheppard. Unfortunately the film’s director or editor clearly had been
labouring under the misconception that it was his job to make the material
interesting. There were a lot of swift cuts, tricks, and extended eyes
or face close ups while the dancer in question was clearly dancing. The
last section of the film, which showed all five dancers performing in
a white space seemingly without floor and walls, worked best and let Khan’s
choreography speak for itself.
Next Sara Rudner, the American dancer and choreographer who had appeared
in the very first Dance Umbrella Festival in 1978, recreated her work
"Hearbeat". Using the amplified nerve impulses that Rudner’s
brain sends to her heart and the surrounding tissue as a percussion sound
track the piece explores the heart as both sophisticated pump and “seat
of the soul”. Although this idea is intriguing and the background track
is interwoven with a spoken scientific text about cardiac theory, jazz
vocals and even a saxophone solo, Rudner’s choreography is not engaging
enough to sustain the work through its 18 minutes. Less time would have
After the interval David Gordon and Valda Setterfield performed a duet
from "Private Lives of Dancers". Gordon’s dead serious "yes"
and "no" replies to his partner’s questions while they cleared
the stage of furniture were just perfect in their comic timing. Then the
couple danced, walking forwards and backwards, half turning, moving their
arms, accompanied by interview snippets of great partnerships of the past
-- Gertrud Lawrence and Noel Coward, Merce Cunnigham and Robert Raushenberg
and Toni Lander and Bruce Marks. Gordon and Setterfield’s performance
drew a very enthusiastic response from the audience and the evening took
off from there.
Siobhan Davies Dance Company shone in an excerpt from Davies’s brand new
piece "Bird Song" which is due to receive its full length world
premiere in spring 2004. Henry Montes was spellbinding in a solo set to
a score mainly consisting of a very beautiful bird song recording. His
fluid performance did the beauty of the score full justice. If this excerpt
is anything to go by "Bird Song" will be one of the 2004 "must-sees".
I for one can hardly wait.
Last but not least Richard Alston paid tribute to Dance Umbrella “To Val
with my love” with an excerpt from "Roughcut", originally created
for Rambert Dance Company in 1990. His company of nine dancers positively
sparkled and made the most of the lively bubbly choreography set to Steven
Reich’s "New York Counterpoint" for clarinet and tape. The evening
that had started rather slow ended deservedly on a high note. I am already
curious about what dance delicatessens will be served up for the Dance
Umbrella Gold Celebration in 25 years.
Edited by Holly Messitt
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