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FIGURE GROUND – Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London.

Dancers Kieran Stonely and Rowan Heather, figure ground, yorke dance projectAppearing for two preview performances at the Lilian Bayliss Studio ahead of a tour later on this year, The Yorke Dance Project presents Figure Ground, a triple-bill of contemporary works choreographed and performed by members and associates of the company. Two of the pieces receive their world premieres, along with a third piece not performed in the UK for over 30 years.

Continuing the company’s strong tradition of collaboration within the community, the evening begins with a performance by talented young students from the Centre for Advanced Training, responding to the same animated film as project founder Yolande Yorke-Edgell in the final piece on show.

Next comes ‘No Strings Attached’, choreographed by Causeway Young Artist in Residence Charlotte Edmonds. Six highly skilled dancers bring to life what I feel to be the strongest piece on offer, the performance is full of tension from the start. Strong, deliberate movements lend an intensity to the work that is enhanced by the dramatic strings within Michael Gordon’s music and the contrasting lighting throwing great looming shadows onto the backdrop. The constant change between sweeping and staccato movements has an apocalyptic feel, and brings to mind a flock of birds fighting for survival. There is conflict and togetherness in equal measure, yet there is a strong sense of purpose about the performance, even if it is left up to the audience to decipher what that purpose is.

Second is ‘Canciones Del Alma’, a solo number performed by Yolande Yorke-Edgell and choreographed by Robert Cohan. Originally created in 1978 and performed only once in this country, it is inspired by the poetry of St John of the Cross and set to the rousing choral music of Geoffrey Burgon. Soft lighting and flowing fabric enhance the calming, spiritual feel of the dance. If there is a story to grasp, I see it as a personal discovery of faith, but to simply enjoy the beautiful movements and the way they marry with the music is joyful enough.

The final work is another premiere, choreographed by Yorke-Edgell herself, entitled ‘Unfold to Centre’. The six dancers from earlier in the programme are given an opportunity to show their diversity as the tone of this piece is completely different to the other two. A computer-animated film by Larry Cuba not only provides the inspiration, but is incorporated into the dance, projected on┬áthe back wall and floor. The points of light that create the kaleidoscopic formations we see are reflected in the rhythmic and precise choreography. While the other two pieces have an emotional energy to them, this maintains an almost detached impersonal quality. The original animation soundtrack by Kazu Matsui is largely monotone, punctuated with the occasional melody, and secondary to the visual impact of the projections and strong technique of the bodysuit clad dancers. It is at once futuristic and retro, the mood conjured is somewhat melancholic, but hard to define.

Coming into this production knowing nothing of the company and their values, there was a lot to take in and leaving I felt a little overwhelmed. As an introduction to their experimental style and approach to dance, this is a perfect showcase of the talent and energy in all areas of production that they utilise to bring work from the studio to the stage. However, from a personal view, I feel that too much background information can cloud enjoyment and form a barrier preventing a base-level connection to the dance. A short documentary film about the origins and the rehearsal process of the solo piece shown as part of the presentation provides an interesting insight into the creative process, but I prefer to let the art speak for itself.

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Reviewed 27/02/2014

By Catherine Duffy

27th – 28th February 2014
Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London, EC1.

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