Slave to the Rhythm: The Thread at Sadler’s Wells
From the frenzies of Dionysus to the camp of ‘Strictly’ – bodies and minds delight in dance. Dance has the ability to transcend everyday experience, order and disorder, senses on fire; desire, passion, expression…
We intuitively recognise the real thing – when we surrender to what the Ancients called ‘enthousiasmos’. The paradox and power of dance is that by taking us across the border, it shows us our limits.
Orcheisthai- meaning “to dance” – is broader and deeper than its English translation suggests. To the ancients, dance was one of three essential, inseparable, forms – an aspect, along with music and poetry, of mousiké; “the art of the Muses.”
How fitting then that this world premiere of The Thread brings together some of mousiké’s most talented and celebrated practitioners.
Sadler’s Wells Associate Artist Russell Maliphant trained at the Royal Ballet School and graduated to Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet, before forging a career in independent dance. Maliphant performed with ground-breaking companies DV8 Physical Theatre, Michael Clark Company, Laurie Booth Company and Rosemary Butcher, and has since has choreographed more than 20 international works, collaborating closely with lighting designer Michael Hulls.
Vangelis (Evángelos Odysséas Papathanassíou) is a pioneering composer whose prolific output spans decades. His Oscar-winning, epic movie scores for Blade Runner and Chariots of Fire are unforgettable, their sweeping, explosive, synth-driven soundscapes beautifully evoking space, mystery and emotion.
‘The Thread’ takes inspiration from the Greek myth of Theseus’s quest, to slay the Minotaur…
For Maliphant, the thread connecting Theseus and Ariadne is an image of “the energy that connects us to the universe…a thing that carries us between the past and the future.” It really didn’t matter that I didn’t know the story and characters of the Minotaur myth, because Maliphant’s 80-minute production is a celebration designed for all the senses.
The company consists of 18 Greek dancers: 12 contemporary and 6 traditional, wearing vibrant, coordinating, Greek-inspired costumes of rich shades of red and blue, beautifully designed by Greek-born fashion designer Mary Katrantzou.
The stage is bare, with no set or props. Enlivened with wonderful choreography, sound, and Michael Hull’s spare, mood-evoking lighting, this show is all the more powerful for leaving plenty to the imagination.
Dancers emerge, weaving and linking in unison across the space. They begin in straight lines, almost like hieroglyphs, then form undulating intersecting lines, winding circles that expand and contract, and snake-like shapes coiling and uncoiling.
Vangelis’s score is awesome – at times ominous and even demonic. Driven by insistent drumming and the harsh clash of cymbals, blending drones and shrill ululations with big echoing electronics, it often suggests primordial trance rituals. I was particularly struck when a group of men appeared to make a human sacrifice – and bodies simply slip away, into the blackness. Then, with the lush sound of plucked lutes and harps, it suddenly all becomes very sensuous and ethereal.
Male and Female dancers continue to thread their flowing lines and shapes; singly, in pairs, and in groups. The emotion evolves as the mood changes. At one moment it feels like a village wedding dance, with men calling out lustily, urging the energy. Later, a pair of tender lovers meet, and then again there are bodies whirling and tumbling dizzyingly across the stage.
The Thread is a meeting of classical, traditional and contemporary forms; an international fusion much informed by Maliphant’s discovery in his early teens of Ukrainian dance. His subsequent immersion in Western Classical, Chinese and Brazilian movement deepened the connections – all here combined with traditional Greek dance and some distinctly Celtic influences to create a truly universal feel; a World Dance.
It’s an aesthetic of difference and at the same time unity. It’s the marriage of movement and music, winding myriad variations across the warp and weft of space and time…from primal origins, ever-changing, and somehow ever the same, down the millennia.
The Thread is a thrilling show…catch it if you can.
For more about the programme of dance at Sadler’s Wells check their site.
The Thread at Sadler’s Wells
London EC1R 4TN