'One Part II',
25 October 2003 --
Queen Elizabeth Hall/London
Image by Hugo Glendinning
understands that creating a performance means much more than raising the
curtain and letting your dancers do their thing. He chooses to explore
the breadth of possibilities in bringing movement to the stage. He’s not
flashy with costumes (they’re casual) or sets (he doesn’t have any) but
working with long-term lighting collaborator Michael Hulls, Maliphant
is able to make a drama out of the slightest movement.
The opening of tonight’s programme is a perfect example. The solo ‘One
Part II’, danced by the choreographer himself, grows from the chiming
notes of a Bach piano piece. For a few bars the lights glow on Maliphant’s
prowling figure at the back of the stage before dimming to black. Another
breath of light illuminates the dancer, another blackout. It’s an incredibly
simple device, tempting us with gasps of movement, but it’s incredibly
effective in focussing our attention and creating a cinematic suspension
of reality. All by just switching a light on and off. Easy really.
This kind of simplicity serves Maliphant well – taking a single idea and
exploring it. In his hands, dancing doesn’t always mean gallivanting about
the stage. Maliphant is more likely to leave his dancers rooted to the
spot, endlessly mining the possibilities of one square foot. They stretch
straight up and crumble to their knees, exploring the vertical, clutching
at corners, corkscrewing round a point and throwing out every possible
Tonight’s ten-minute reworking of ‘Two’, for three dancers (titled ‘Two
Times Three’) is a concise case in point. Three dancers are trapped in
boxes of light, they begin slowly, limbs blooming like plants reaching
towards the sun until the radar blip of the soundtrack gathers momentum
and crescendos to a pounding pulse, and the dancers’ bodies follow suit.
It’s neat, innovative and visually arresting.
But better than these individual sketches are Maliphant’s duets, which
are on show in a new work ‘Choice’. First, the male-female couples. It’s
part contact improvisation, part clever acrobatics, with some good looking
lines and so many possibilities. Watching these couples is very much like
eavesdropping on a conversation, its protagonists alternately nonchalant,
annoyed, tetchy, bantering and always engaging.
Even stronger are the sections for two male dancers, tonight Miquel de
Jong and Michael Pomero. Maliphant’s work with Ballet Boyz William Trevitt
and Michael Nunn has paid off. He shares the same balletic background
as Trevitt and Nunn and it’s obviously a very natural style for him. ‘Choice’
uses the same combination of strength and stealth, being powerful yet
tender (every bit the new man). Maliphant uses breakdance-style balances,
unexpected leaps and catches, and turns bodies from statues to springboards,
managing to exploit the dancers’ athletic abilities without just opening
up a box of tricks.
There’s a lovely effect later in the piece when one dancer takes a solo
in spotlight and the other copies his movements just out of the light,
as if dancing his shadow. It’s not the kind of thing that makes you burst
out of your seat with excitement – despite all the tossing of bodies in
the air Maliphant’s work is always gentle and polite – but nevertheless
it is another great moment from a choreographer proving himself a serious
force in British dance.
Edited by Stuart
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