Dance: Moving against the current
TAKE ME TO THE RIVER ALONG THE THAMES LONDON
Tuesday 13 July 1999
This series of performances at Greenwich, Canary Wharf and the South Bank is connected by boat. We assembled at Greenwich, where the Painted Hall of the Old Naval College made a grand if gloomy setting for Rosemary Lee's Banquet Dances with their cast of sixty, from eight-year-old schoolchildren through college students and an "open group" (presumably the PC term for adults) to a couple of sprightly, 70-plus ladies.
Lee set them walking, running, pointing, sitting and sliding on tables, all dressed in white feathers, white or near-white clothes, and for some of the women hoops but no skirts (designed by Pippa Roberts and Sue Davis).
At the end tiny feathers were distributed and the performers waved us goodbye as we left for our next adventure.
This was a boat trip to Canary Wharf where we were met by someone who led us to a circular garden while describing the delights of the great tower behind it. The choreographer here was Wendy Houston, described in her programme CV as "a unique and original voice" in contemporary dance. That is accurate enough, I suppose, since she is progressively becoming almost all talk and hardly any action.
However, she had four acolytes for Feted, who did a few little jumps, pretended to run egg-and-spoon or three-legged races, rolled in amorous couplings, and looked remarkably cheerful even when (perhaps because she recognised how wet the show was proving) Houston had the sprinklers turned on to saturate them.
No gifts of feathers here, but a medal for one lucky spectator and flowers for some others. And so off in our boat further upstream to the South Bank, where the roof of the Queen Elizabeth Hall provided the site of Noel Wallace's Inside Out. This proved the afternoon's most cogent offering: a sort of mimed play about a large black woman dying, agitatedly but I think gladly, among the luggage of her memories, including her younger self and an RAF sergeant who might have been her son.
Wallace's direction made ingenious use of the roof space and its structures for entrances and exits. A pity we had to sit with our backs to the river; but then it occurs to me that on this river adventure we saw the Thames only between items. There was also quite a lot of marching about and climbing up or down, spread over the best part of four hours, and I did overhear a comment about the shortage of recognisable dance routines. But let's not complain, at least the weather stayed warm and sunny.
Further performances July 17 & 18 at noon and 3.30pm (tickets: 0870 900 0355).
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