On the 23 and 24 of November, Sadlers Wells hosted the mixed bill “Young Associates”, which aims to support promising young choreographers in their professional development. It showcased the talents of multiple artists, choreographers, dancers and technicians in four unique and beautifully rendered performances.
The show opened with Magnus Westwell’s “Landscape with Flying Man”, admirably performed by a young trio of male dancers. This haunting piece of slow and twisting motions has the dancers compliment each other in their movements to the point of becoming a unique entity. The show opens and closes with a choreography that creates an illusion of the dancers merging into one man with elongated limbs who appears to be flying. This imagery remains with you long after you have watched the show. The expressions on the men’s faces connote a certain suffering, a melancholy that gives them the allure of fallen angels. This is emphasised by their contrasting black and white costumes (designed by Olubiyi Thomas) and their ethereal movements. The light, designed by Ryan Stafford, is a central element of the choreography as it suddenly explodes into several beams of light that blind the audience and transform the dancers into shadows. Westwell’s creations are often reflections of experiences as a queer and neurodivergent person, yet they hold a universal feeling of euphoria and fragility.
The otherworldly experience of Westwell’s piece is followed by a grounded-in-reality, political dance piece choreographed by Vidya Patel, “When life gives you melons”. It opens with the projection of a video where two voices speak simultaneously in a confusing cacophony: the first is an Indian elderly woman voicing her opinion on the place of women in society with traditionalist and sexist arguments, subtitled in English. The second is a younger female voice that talks in English about women’s oppression tin society. As an audience I singled out the younger voice to hear at times and then switched to reading the subtitles to follow the elderly woman’s speech. This is a thorough reflection on the diverging and clashing opinions on the subject, and focuses on our individual responsibility to choose to listen to the right one. The dance is performed by four South-Asian young dancers and once again combines tradition with modernity in their use of choreographic technique. Its a brilliant mix of the classical Indian dance style kathak with elements of hip-hop, ballet and contemporary. The undercurrent of strong story-telling mirrors what you would see in a theatre piece. We see the women getting up and ready to face the world, they are overwhelmed by their household chores, rebelling against their plight in society and finally achieving a state of careless and playful freedom, interrupted by a dramatic scene referring to sexual violence. The piece ends with the dancers forming a procession on a white carpet and exiting the stage to a voice uttering the chilling words: “Goddesses are prayed to, sometimes, preyed upon.”. The words that resonate with every generation of women until today.
The following dance was Olive Hardy’s “I wonder if you know what I’m talking about”, a title that challenges the viewer to understand the piece and search for its deeper meaning. The trio of dancers on stage engage in a to what would come across as a violent expression as they are taken by seemingly uncontrollable spasms that they to fight off by screaming for help. This results in a horrifying vision that imposes a strong feeling of uneasiness on the spectators. The approach to movement is particularly creative, as the dancers seem to be inhabited by a frantic force that dominates their movements. It creates an illusion of their bodies being controlled and manipulated by an external invisible force. Hardy’s approach to dance is strongly based on improvisation, as she leaves a lot of room for communication between choreographers and dancers. The performers are free to add their innate language to the choreography, which results in an honest and intimate performance expressing deep personal suffering.
The following piece strongly contrasts with the previous one. John-William Watson’s “This is not a penguin” is a bitter-sweet piece interpreted by a duo of female dancers accompanied by Ethan Aldwinkle’s score. The performers dance to the music of an old song that appears to be playing from the radio that gives an aura of nostalgia and detachment from time. The two dancers are confined within a square of light that they never cross, and during their choreography they repetitively keep turning in circles around the only two pieces of furniture in what seems to be a remote and decrepit outpost. Their comical and clownesque movements and costumes give the impression of seeing two penguins interact, although the title of the play reminds us that “This is not a penguin”. An expression that mirrors Magritte’s “This is not a pipe” and denotes Watson’s fascination for Surrealism. The dances balance the rational with a deeper surreal message: the two dancers, who form a “Laurel and Hardy” type of comical duo, perform a seemingly simple choreography that holds a deeper feeling of loneliness, cyclicality and imprisonment. An untold sadness hovers over the seemingly mundane piece, which results in a strong effect of uncanniness for the audience.
The performances presented by Sadler Wells’ Young Associates are innovative and varied and we will hopefully get to see more from these rising young talents on the stages of London. Get your tickets for Sadler Wells’s shows at [https://www.sadlerswells.com/whats-on/]().
Reviewed by Céline Galletti- Celine is a volunteer writer for Abundant Art. Originally from France and Italy, she follows her passion for writing and art by studying Comparative Literature at UCL, London. As an international student living in London, she is determined to fully experience and understand the city’s vibrant arts scene, and be a part of its creative storm.