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'Silent Lines', Russell Maliphant Dance Company - Sadler's Wells

Russell Maliphant Dance Company’s Silent Lines is a complete synthesis of movement, sound, light and fabric, all working to enhance the quest of five dancers to understand the inner and outer workings of their anatomy. For one hour, the audience is presented with a collaboration between choreographer Russell Maliphant, light and video designer Panagiotis Tomaras, sound designer Dana Fouras and costume designer Stevie Stewart. The piece, composed of five to seven minute segments, is a journey in discovering the body and its surrounding environment.

© Martin Collins

The piece begins with the five dancers holding hands and moving in unison. Their arms and upper bodies move slowly and steadily to a rhythm not unlike that of the human heart. A projection of a tree dancing in the wind prevails. As the piece progresses, it becomes clear that each dancer hails from a different background, ranging from classical ballet and popping and locking to contemporary and breakdance. These very disparate styles are expertly combined to reflect the intricacies of the dancers’ limbs, muscles and bones, and performed either alone, in duos, or as one. Although each dancer carries a unique set of skills and questions to ask of their own bodies, Maliphant manages to choreograph the movements in such a way that builds a strong sense of unity, allowing the five to compliment one another—much like the different organs of the body.

Grace Jabbari © Martin Collins

The dancers’ quest is strengthened by Fouras’s score, a collection of sounds from sources as wide ranging as classical, jazz, rodeo, musical, drum and bass, hip-hop and techno. These varied sounds never become too intense, rather, they serve more as eclectic background noise than anything else. This is the result of one of the more prominent sounds: the human heartbeat. In certain segments the beat accelerates, guiding the dancers to epiphanies in their own body explorations, while in others, the beat is so faint that the mere presence of the moving bodies takes precedence.

Each segment is characterised by gradual shifts in colour and pattern, allowing the audience to follow the dancers’ explorations. These projections take the geometrical forms of circles and rectangles, sometimes focusing on the floor, sometimes the dancers’ bodies—the latter resulting in a snakelike pattern which blends seamlessly with the skin. This is further enhanced by the work of costume designer Stevie Stewart. Her designs, though simple in colour and fabric, are impressive constructions of careful pleats and ruffles, whilst still leaving enough space to show the dancers’ silhouettes.

Grace Jabbari © Martin Collins

Though Silent Lines initially presents five dancers grappling with an understanding of their own anatomy, boundaries are pushed further in focussing on the outer workings of the body. Towards the end of the piece, the lighting begins to take on a more galactic quality, coupled with the earthier sounds of wind, storms and traffic. In this way, the dancers are also discovering their position within their environment—be that in relation to their fellow dancers, within the theatre space, or in the universe. The latter is vast beyond measure, and the only vehicle we have for its navigation is the body. In our ongoing quest to understand the world around us, we sometimes lose awareness of our own movements—the highly impressive Silent Lines reminds us to do just that.

Edited by Alexia McDonald, Digital Editor

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