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'Young Associates Mixed Bill' - Sadler's Wells Theatre

Sadler’s Wells: Young Associates Mixed Bill – 9th October

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A celebration of young contemporary dance artists, this evening was a testament to the genuine pursuit of creativity that London nurtures.

Sadler’s Wells introduces the first year of their Young Associates' mentoring scheme, a platform to display works by young choreographers they have spent the last year nurturing. The mixed bill showcases four widely eclectic and original choreographic voices, who have been developing works alongside the support of mentors such as Mark Bruce and Russel Maliphant. Whilst there is no overt motif that links all four pieces, Sadler’s Wells has curated this platform as a nod to the diversity that the modern landscape of contemporary dance generates.

Wilhelmina Ojanen inaugurated the showcase with ‘a quiet hope’. Upon entry into the theatre, the audience is immediately immersed in the performance. The four dancers are already present on stage, standing side by side and executing a slight swaying motion that is almost imperceptible at first. The dancers' immediate presence is intensified by the bright house lights that flood the room, but this immersion is ameliorated by gentle piano notes that elevate this experience.

Interconnectedness is the fundamental motivation that drives this piece, and the dancers bring this to fruition by pushing, pulling and running with each other; the image of a playful pendulum springs to mind. The original score helps to build upon this sense of play and exploration. The close amplification of the piano furthers the intimate qualities of the piece, as this tactile sound translates to the physical-contact work between the dancers. There is a shift in the mood, where exploring becomes trust and the play becomes more sombre. The dancers reposition themselves in the space, using each other’s weight to support one another. Once again the composition develops and compliments the mood with a dense cello arrangement that emulates both the physical and mental pressure of the dancing bodies supporting each other’s weight.

Ruby Portus then disrupts the calm with her striking piece 'Shall we just retire to the lake?'. Portus’ socio-political voice shocks the audience to some extent, as she presents a two-woman cabaret that begins to deconstruct male-dominated spaces. Thematically the piece is fundamentally serious, yet this piece of performance art is also incredibly humorous. Satirical yet sensual, movements keep the piece light-hearted and mischievous, and it has scenography reminiscent of the Weimar Republic’s avant-garde.

Ruby Portus performing

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The show continues with 'The Three Visions' by Christopher Thomas, simulating a period-drama with a trauma-suffering female figure that is visited by three different apparitions. The influence and mentoring of Mark Bruce shines through, as the piece transcends and reconstructs the boundaries of dance-driven narrative, predominantly through beautifully executed technical extensions and classical ballet turns.

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Anthony Matsena’s piece Tsutseka invites the audience to explore the concept of freedom. Tsutseka means ‘be free’. He incorporates folkloric song, flying-low technique and crump into his work, and these eclectic forms of movement allow the audience to infer whatever freedom means to them.

Anthony Matsena

This new programme creates tangible and accessible pathways for burgeoning choreographers, who are on the verge of launching their careers. These four young artists are expected to continue to disrupt and shape London’s thriving contemporary dance scene, and affirm that the future of dance is in safe hands.