THERE was deep division amid theatre-goers about LA Dance Project at the Playhouse on Saturday.
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Amid rapturous applause for the group’s second work of the evening, a revival of avant-garde choreographer Merce Cunningham’s 1964 Winterbranch, were a flurry of loud boos, some audience members having already walked out in protest at the piece.
What caused such division? In part, the staging is designed to jar the senses. The sound is a grating and disorientating cacophony that one half suspects might be the Tardis’ engine stuck in the wrong gear. It would certainly go a long way toward explaining the mysterious metal ‘monster’ and its cryptic journey across the stage halfway through.
The lighting is designed to reflect ‘night as it is in our time with automobiles on highways, flashlights in faces and the eyes being deceived’, leaving barely a glow on stage by which to see the dancers.
The ensemble’s first work, Moving Parts by LA Dance Project founder, Benjamin Millepied was a more modernist affair, infused with light and warmth. Although, the sight of the dancers’ feet under the gliding triptych of partition dividers as they shuffled them like playing cards was not so much a graceful sashay as reminiscent of awkward scene changes in school plays.
The final dance sequence, Quintett by choreographer William Forsythe, was first performed in 1993 and created as a tribute to his wife during the final stages of her terminal illness.
An air of melancholy hangs over the production which is caused mostly by a looping tune, the recorded singing of a homeless man in the 1970s, called Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet that plays over a slowly developing orchestral movement.
The choreography itself, however, is invigorating, in turns comic, combative and compelling, an ode to the joy of life as much a tribute to the dying.