Sadler’s Wells Sampled 2009 review

Packed to the rafters, Sadler’s Wells opened its doors to a sell out audience for Sampled, now in its third successful year.

Offering a selection of acts from their dance line up for 2009, Sampled drew in a full house of people, both frequent to the theatre and those wanting to know what the fuss is all about, and rest assured, they got it.

Sadler’s never do an event by halves, and to get people involved, set up events in the foyer for attendees to try. The mezzanine featured a surreal performance from a muted Brian Lobel dancing on a bed while wearing oversized headphones and watching musicals on fours televisions situated around him, imitating what played back to him. Surrounding this display were signs inviting people to try it for themselves, and amusingly, some did.

Across from this, DJ Silverio Funk invited people up to participate in a simple dance routine, and the response was surprisingly positive as onlookers had to stand back to make space. Upstairs from this was a dance mat, which was fun if you could get a go, plus projected footage of the area playing back motion blurred images over real time footage of the people in the camera’s vicinity.

The show

Saturday night offered a variety of six dance numbers in its line up. Opening to the packed house was Rojas & Rodríguez Gayivarté, an a capella flamenco number with the lead men competitively tapping back and forth. With each tap of the toe and heel, the audience was mesmerised as they increased not just their tapping speed, but also the volume at which their feet hit the floor. Proceeding to their second number, Los Canos, the stage lights raise to reveal the live band. The senoritas spill on to stage in glorious, flowing flamenco dresses, complete with maracas, to the audience’s delight, accompanied by the raw Latino vocals and Spanish guitar from the band.

Rojas & Rodríguez made way with their engaging performance for the next act, a pas de deux from the American Ballet Theatre. Performing the White Swan scene from Swan Lake, the ballerina and premier danseur were graceful in movement as the ballerina executed turns on pointe, although their marking looked a little tense and lacked chemistry.

Flying Steps, current Red Bull Beat Battle champions performed their set B-Boy 4 Life prior to the interval, showing off the skilful acrobatics that won them the title. Introducing the audience to breakin’, poppin’, lockin’ and boogaloo, this was more of a generic set to impress those new to hip hop theatre styles rather than for fans of hip hop dance. Their power moves and impressive air freezes got the audience reaction they wanted, though, even if their efforts looked less than their usual high standard.

After the interval, Russell Maliphant Company presented a contemporary solo, Two. Beginning in a box-shaped spotlight, the dancer begins moving slowly to the music as it begins to build tension. Soon, the music becomes more frantic, with thrashing drums adding to the melancholy of the dancer’s flailing limbs, although it feels as though the number cuts off before the tension reaches its peak, or as though it should continue for a bit longer. The intention may have been to leave the audience wanting to see more, although the result felt like it was in fact unfinished.

The fifth act was another interpretation of Swan Lake, this time by Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures. This time around, the chemistry between The Swan and The Prince was clear as the partner work was cohesive and attention was paid to musicality.

The closing number, an extract from theatre circus show Traces by Les 4 Doigts De La Main was saving the best until last. Using drama conventions mixed with elements of circus acrobatics and dance routines, their piece begins with the cast performing a highly accurate routine passing a basketball to each other while performing stunts in time to the music. The music fades and a piano is brought on for the second scene, where the characters introduce themselves. A duel between the men over the woman ensues, and the competition sees her being balanced in handstands on their heads. The third scene involves a man spinning inside an oversized hula hoop like a live Da Vinci diagram, something far more impressive seen live than described with words, and is pulled off with ease. The final scene is the most impressive yet, as the cast jump through two hoops placed on top of each other, with “oohs!” and “ahs!” coming from the audience. Another is added, and to turn up the heat, two jump through at the same time. Sometimes they jump through the top hoop and reverse through the middle, something as impressive as it sounds. Finally, to add to the risk, a fourth hoop is added and a beating heart plays through the speakers…

Sampled was an all-round enjoyable evening. Sadler’s Wells made sure their audience knew they were the top venue for dance variety in London with their engaging foyer displays and impressive selection of acts to match. Their line up for 2009 is strong, and the samples, no pun intended, left the audience with a hunger to see the full productions or try new types of theatre upon their return. Sadler’s Wells may only do Sampled annually, but their goal in attracting new audiences to dance should be made a more frequent occasion, were there only more time in their busy performance bookings.

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