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Russell Maliphant Company

'One Part II', 'Two', 'Choice'

by Lyndsey Winship

25 October 2003 -- Queen Elizabeth Hall/London

Image by Hugo Glendinning

Russell Maliphant 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 angle.

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 Sweeney

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