Tag Archives: dance

Dance Review: Los Vivancos: Aternum (The Coliseum, London)

Viva Espana! Can I be one of the seven brides? Los Vivancos in action. Photograph: Courtesy of Kevin Wilson PR.

Viva Espana! Can I be one of the seven brides? Los Vivancos in action. Photograph: Courtesy of Kevin Wilson PR.

Rating: ****

This band of seven Spanish Flamenco-dancing brothers came to London for one night only, and boy, did they leave their mark. With Cirque du Solei writer and director Daniele Finzi Pasca behind the produciation and composer Frenando Velãzquez, who worked on the music for the film The Impossible, providing a score recorded by the Synfonic Orchestra of Budapest, this was never going to be a dull show.

Right from the start, drama (and volume) is pumped into the huge space that is The Coliseum and the audience are pelted with grand theatrics, wowing patrons at every given opportunity. Lavish costumes, dizzying lights, pyrotechnics, gob-smacking feats of physical ability, sweaty muscular half-naked male bodies: the production is literally stupefying in that you’re knocked into a showboating induced coma of sex appeal and glamour from start to finish.

Even though the show has more production values than Donatella Versace’s face, at the heart of the entire show is some astounding dance. As ridiculously handsome and physically resplendent as they are, Los Vivancos’ dancing abilities match their Adonis looks, making them a marvel to watch. The choreography accelerates quickly from something quite simple into a maelstrom of stomping, clapping, and back-flipping. Their timing and energy are both impeccable. They criss-cross, fan, dance in formation, and even blindfolded, as if it were as natural as breathing. Even if they weren’t all related, such a slick troupe of dancers is impressive enough as it is.

But most intriguingly is that, whilst it would have been incredibly easy to hide behind the overkill of production, the brothers’ interdisciplinary training in dance, music, and performance are deployed to add a wild variety and dynamism to the show which works fantastically well. You’ve got everything from fusing Flamenco with ballet, modern jazz, and martial arts. You’ve even have some of the brothers performing on instruments, including a mad Steampunk rendition of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumblebee on an electric cello, flute, and snare box. This is just as well, as a full 80 minutes of pure traditional Flamenco would loose its glimmer and appeal quickly, no matter how pretty the boys are.

However, the impressive production is actually the only thing that faults the show. The narratives of each sequence are sometimes baffling. At one point Mozart turns into Flashdance’s Alex Owen. There are also enough sinister medieval religious iconography and hooded monks to warrant an Enigma comeback tour. And then some things just happen with no rhyme or reasons whatsoever.

Also, the flitting from one attempt to bedazzle the audience to the other doesn’t always work. Not to mention such a smorgasbord of styles and gimmicks is a tiring. For example, the moment when the brothers got their castanets out (steady on) and attempted some manner of slick post-modern light show didn’t impress as much as the rest. When the stage lights came back on, their prowess with the castanets was simply mind-blowing and needed not the literal flashiness of what came before it.

Furthermore, the indecision on what parts of the music should be performed live or not is a little irksome. On stage you end up with an all female band that you’re not sure if they’re either miming, playing, or periodically doing a bit of both. Thankfully, the brothers’ musical performances, though amped up to eleven, are all genuine, which just adds to how impressive they are.

Essentially, such ostentatious production of the show is unnecessary as what makes Los Vivancos fantastic is the actual talent and flair of the brothers seven; there’s really not much need to dress them up (and down) so much. A slightly less intense approach would have lost nothing in its impact and spectacle. But it’s not like I’m unappreciative, however. This is a show that knows it’s ridiculous and completely over the top, but couldn’t care less and does a fantastic job at being ridiculous and completely over the top. Blasting into London like Vegas was going out of fashion, it’s an amazing and heart-pounding spectacular, the kind of which you don’t see much of these days. It might not be subtle or outstanding theatre, but it’s one hot as hell night out.

Los Vivancos: Aternum played at The Coliseum, London, WC2N 4ES, on 9 July 2013. To find out more about the group visit www.losvivancos.com.

Dance Review: The Rite of Spring/Petrushka (Sadler’s Wells, London)

Fabulous Beast's"The Rite of Spring" from the 2009 production. Photograph: Courtesy of the company.

Fabulous Beast’s “The Rite of Spring” (taken from the 2009 production). Photograph: Courtesy of the company.

Rating: **

Fabulous Beast re-imagine their 2009 Olivier-nominated interpretation of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring for the ballet’s centenary, and also add a new interpretation of the composer’s Petrushka to create two narratively connected pieces in this double bill. But despite the acclaim of 4 years ago fuelling their hype, this premier at Sadler’s Wells is lacking.

With The Rite of Spring the problem was with the musical aspect. Gone are the English National Opera’s tremendous orchestra from the acclaimed 2009 version. Here we welcome just two very talented pianists. But it almost made sense. Stravinsky’s behemoth scoring is irrepressible and the removal of the mountain of sound that a full orchestra creates really gives the dance undivided attention from the audience. It starts off interesting being able to hear every stamp, turn, and breath of the dancers as its resonates through the auditorium. But you quickly start to notice the absence of the thumping string rhythms, the booming trumpets, and the catastrophic percussion that hallmark the work. The tinkle-tinkle of a piano just doesn’t cut it. You’re suddenly left realising and appreciating the genius behind Stravinsky’s scoring and just how integral it is to the ballet – further reflected in the perfectionism of the several revisions he made to the piece during his lifetime.

The modern narrative doesn’t really diverge far from the essence of the original ballet – a sullen matriarch watches over a ritual of rebirth, complete with sex and violence. But without the energy and timbre of an orchestra the dance is bewildering at best. Michael Keegan-Dolan’s choreography is certainly sinister, but it lacks the savagery the piece lusts for. For a production that sends out warnings to school groups about the content it’s decidedly un-shocking, sometimes tumbling into the ridiculous. Apart from a bit of nudey-nudey dancers, dry-humping the stage after dropping your trousers down to your pants is hardly pornographic, and the sexual violence is abstract enough to lose any impact. Furthermore the dog masks look more like we’ve been plunged into a Furries convention rather than an unnerving metamorphosis of wild animal instinct. For a piece that infamously started a riot during its first performance, this version scarcely raises an itch.

Petrushka was an improvement by comparison. Stravinksy’s lighter, more lyrical, and melodic score of this earlier ballet suits a version for four hands much better opposed to the raw rabble of The Rite of Spring. Keegan-Dolan’s brighter approach also boasts tighter and more energetic ensemble pieces. Again, whilst diverging from the original narrative of the ballet, the core elements are still there – romance, rivalry, and ascension. However, these themes are loosely dragged out over the entire 30 minutes of the ballet score and despite a handful of visually arresting moments and managing to capture a fun sense of whimsy, it ultimately doesn’t feel satisfying. Also, its tagging-on as some sort of pseudo-sequel to the previous piece is irritatingly contrived. The matriarch reappears only to shout “non” several times and toss about a few pockets of fake snow. Her presence goes from intimidating to irrelevant.

I’m admittedly more knowledgeable about music than I am dance, so I’m unfortunately unable to offer much comment on the actual choreography itself. However, whilst it certainly looks slick, it just seems too safe with little breath-taking moves or surprising stunts, overall lacking a sense of daring. But it seemed pretty much there and the dance aficionados in the audience certainly seemed to appreciate it.

If you’re into modern dance then I’m sure the choreography itself is quite something whether you burgeon a deep appreciation for the music, like myself, or not. But if you’re not, without a proper musical performance the entire affair is empty. Fabulous Beast seems to ignore the fact that what makes Stravinksy’s ballets is Stravinsky’s music and orchestration, not just the dance, thus rendering The Rite of Spring/Petrushka into something pretentious, dull, and disappointing.

The Rite of Spring/Petrushka plays at Sadler’s Wells, London, EC1R 4TN, until 13th April. Tickets are £12-£38. To book visit www.sadlerswells.com.

Theatre Review: SIRO-A (Leicester Square Theatre, London)

Siro-A. Photograph: Courtesy of Kevin Wilson PR.

Siro-A. Photograph: Courtesy of Kevin Wilson PR.

NB: This is my review of Siro-A’s 2013 show. If you’re looking for their 2014/2015 show, click here.

Rating: *****

‘Virtual Reality’ noun. A computer-generated environment that, to the person experiencing it, closely resembles reality. – www.collinsdictionary.com Forget everything you thought about ‘virtual reality’ and prepare yourself for something far more extraordinary. Japanese group SIRO-A bring their ground-breaking show to London. Mixing live performance with 3D projections, techno music, dance, lasers, shadow-play, and traditional magic, the result is an enthralling and exhilarating hour-long assault on your senses.

Projection in theatre is nothing new, and those familiar with the work of Complicite will have already been wowed by such innovations. But SIRO-A raises the bar to an all new level that won’t fail to awe even the most hardy theatre buffs. And even if it manages to somehow unimpressed you’ve got to admire the tireless robotic precision it takes to execute such a show – SIRO-A are more akin to androids than men.

But this isn’t ‘virtual reality’, this is ‘virtual hyper-reality’. The group perform playing with and manipulating set and projected image that blur the boundaries between life and technology to the point where they’re almost indistinguishable – it’s like someone has dropped a tablet of acid between two Telsa Coils and you’ve subsequently woken up inside the internet. There are moments where life and image are one and the same and it’s impossible to tell them apart. Is that hole projected or a real one? Is that a performer or a video bursting through the screen? Confusion is gloriously rife.

The hour long spectacle absolutely flies by and nothing drags. Whilst it’s the group’s visual innovations that drive it, it’s also propelled by hypnotic video animation and thumping techno music. Also, there is also a good dollop of playful humour that really augments the show and varies the pacing. If this was a full-on serious affair no matter how bedazzling the gimmicks are there’s too much potential for it to become stale. But you end up chuckling just as much as you sit there with your mouth agape.

The show is pristine and faultless. However, unfortunately the same can’t be said about the venue. The problem with the Leicester Square Theatre is that it’s absence of raking means it’s a little irritating to have to crane your neck around any person above average height who you have the misfortune to be sat behind. Also, being so close up means it’s easier to spot the tiny give-away flaws that are unavoidable in such a technically demanding production. A quick search on YouTube and you’ll find that they’ve played much larger venues and the show is just as impressive, if not more so. But the inadequacies of the theatre are not so much of a burden to bear that it should stop anyone from seeing the show as it’s still utterly brilliant.

Overall SIRO-A is literally unbelievable. A magic show for the twenty-second century that’s unfathomably astonishing.

SIRO-A plays at the Leicester Square Theatre, London, WC1H 7BX, until 22 April 2013. Tickets are £17.00 (concessions available). To book, visit www.siro-a.co.uk.