10th – 13th October
Twenty years ago, Sadler’s Wells inaugurated a brand-new theatre tailored for dance. To celebrate the anniversary, an exhilarating triple-bill was specifically curated. However, the past is not the main focus of this special evening. Before all else, the three works premiered draw promising guidelines and intentions for the future.
The three choreographers and their new pieces are all the more reason to rejoice. Part of the up-and-coming leading group of choreographers, Julie Cunningham, Botis Seva and Alesandra Sevin are artists whose voices would not have been heard a generation ago. Their works, however diverse in style, mirror each other as they reckon with identity and relay urgent political and social messages to be listened to. The themes covered and statements created by choreography are benefitting from increasingly visible platforms.
Julie Cunningham’s “m/y”, inspired by French feminist theorist Monique Wittig’s “The Lesbian Body”, stages gender and sexuality. For the first part of the piece, there is no sense of ensemble between the dancers. Often set in pairs, steps are executed in canon, with palpable tension. Intimacy, violence, control, pregnancy are evoked in the choreography. Bodies are set in postmodernist discomfort, often dancing, moving across the stage on one foot, deliberately searching for points of unbalance. As the dancers progressively harmonize and their movements unify in sync, the pace of the choreography fastens and movement strengthens. A new balance is found, which seemingly astonish the artists themselves who stop to gaze at the audience while the curtain falls.
The most striking piece of the evening is “BLKDOG” by Botis Seva who rattles his mind and swoons the audience in a tenebrous exploration of his psyche.
The dark lighting design, the threatening ceiling of spotlights moving up and down the stage, the audience noticeably being subject to the vibrations of the soundtrack’s basses, all ensure a total immersion and immediate perception of the mental struggles expressed by the choreographer. The stage becomes a battlefield on which the inner fight unfolding in front of their eyes keeps the audience holding their breath.
In a metaphor every student will relate to: Seva brilliantly shows through movement on stage, how exactly it feels to have 96 pages of readings for tomorrow-9am, and still not having gone through half a paragraph. The fight is one of the grinding efforts to deal with one’s rougher qualities and of the struggle towards self-discipline in producing work as an artist. Procrastinators in pain; this one is a catharsis for you.
The choreographic style of Botis Seva is absolutely thrilling, displaying brilliant hip-hop moves (slow-mo, bodies’ gravity center kept low near the ground, Jookin) executed by masterful dancers who serve the subject at hand perfectly through their bodies’ display of annihilating freezes and high tensions.
The huge success of the piece conquered the whole audience who exploded in ecstatic cheers as soon as the curtain fell. This ovation was soon directly aimed towards Seva who had been sitting in the first circle’s front row all along.
In “Boy Breaking Glass”, Alesandra Seutin creates a space in which racial struggles and black experiences are expressed. Her piece features a quote from MAGIC!’s 2014 pop-hit “why you gotta be so rude? Don’t you know I’m human too?”, reinvigorated by Vocalist Randolph Matthews. Myriad cultural influences enrich the piece and reflect on Black history and its diaspora: jazz music, capoeira movements, traditional and social Senegalese and South-African dances. The result delivers a highly emotional and emphatic work to be remembered.
All three artists are already associated with Sadler’s Wells in a long-term fashion: Cunningham is a New Wave Associate since 2018, Seva is the freshly appointed artistic director Sadler’s Wells’ National Youth Dance Company, while previous works by Seutin have been performed at the theatre in the past. Considering the meaningful works reflecting on our time they each create, I will look forward to seeing more of their creations in the future.