Random Dance

"Polar Sequences"

by Katie Phillips

September 18, 2003 -- The Robin Howard Theatre, London


Already in residence for 4 weeks at The Place, Random Dance Company’s season in the Robin Howard Dance Theatre opened with "Polar Sequences" – three pieces with contrasted performance physicality, choreographic intent and style.

The first section choreographed by Shobana Jeyasingh introduces us to the characteristically brilliant Random dancers. Laila Diailo opens the piece with her faultless, sexy style, and makes the sometimes-awkward moments in the ensuing trio worth watching. The dancers execute sharp succinct movements with classical Bharatanatyam hand gestures and solid foot stamping. Nevertheless, it’s a formulaic piece – perhaps Jeyasingh is so used to working with her own company that the only way to combat potential disharmonies caused with a new style of movement on new bodies is an attempt to follow the book, choreographically. As a result the dancers move with the aim of spatial awareness but without any emotive content.

Having been warned that the next piece by Rui Horta was the “Smelliest Dance performance ever seen”, I hardly knew what to expect. It turned out to be the highlight of the evening. There is a prominent Japanese influence in the set design, costume and content – a sliced partition in the backdrop akin to Japanese paper walls, a ‘chef’s’ kimono, a wok and noodles, and later a sumo style circular ring created with tape. The chef cooks his noodles as the dancers run, wrestle and glide around the space, to the sounds of a jazzy sax. This is more of a narrative piece, seen not least in the chef’s final rant, detailing the way that the food should be prepared. Matthias Sperling plays out the agonies and insecurities of a chef cast as a comical, neurotic, character.

The final piece of the evening is choreographed by the artistic director of Random Dance Co, Wayne McGregor. The piece begins in an underlit, shadowy space. There is something swan-like about the fluid torso ripples, fluffy white skirts and arcing arms. Later, there are even a few wilting glissades to the sound of a solo clarinet. We are lured in to a sense of aesthetic pleasure with the dancers performing solos to show off their quirky, individualistic styles to a beautiful Purcell score. It is unfortunate that McGregor so loves to subvert; the ensuing aching menace of high frequency sound gives a sense of, “Is this supposed to be happening?”  As the dancers carry on, we guess that it is and we remember that McGregor has done this before.

Sometimes this can work, and sometimes it just doesn't. Out of time dancers marauding to deafening Marilyn Manson taints the piece – it is difficult to believe that this is not a gimmick.

With more pleasing displays of convulsion, flexibility and limp wrists, and what McGregor himself describes as a “Pedestrian romp”, we are left to witness the physical trauma of the dancers’ bodies after performing. Their wracked ribs rising and falling as they take it in turns to lie on the floor leaves us with a powerful image to take away – damn these dancers work hard.

Edited by Stuart Sweeney

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