Haptic + Holistic Strata, Linbury Studio Theatre, Royal Opera House, London
Tuesday 17 January 2012
Hiroaki Umeda's dance double bill offers technological marvels, and not much happening. Mixing dance, computer imagery and video projection, Umeda surrounds and transforms himself with shifting light, then stops. He refuses to develop the images or ideas: there they are, take it or leave it.
Appearing as part of the London International Mime Festival, Umeda is based in Tokyo. He studied photography before training as a dancer, and also creates his own soundscapes and lighting.
In Haptic, created in 2008, Umeda stands on a dimly-lit stage. The dancing area is outlined with a rectangle of coloured light, which alternates with a single bar of light crossing the stage. The soundtrack, by Umeda’s company S20, is a mix of hums and ahs, synthesizer notes and refrigerator buzz.
Keeping on the spot, Umeda paws with one foot, his leg flickering with jelly fluidity. His dancing is minimalist, but very accomplished. He keeps up this rippling, wobbly-legged dance for minutes at a time, drawing on breakdance popping styles when he starts to shift his shoulders and torso.
Around him, the lights change, altering the colour of the rectangle or dropping in a burst of furious strobe lighting. One blast of light turns Umeda’s shadow into a spectrum, a puddle of different colours at his feet.
At the start of Holistic Strata, Umeda strolls on in rumpled grey shirt and trousers, a relaxed and ordinary figure. Then a switch is thrown, and he stands in darkness, his whole body glowing with stars. The projections, or whatever they are, are entirely localised; nothing spills over onto the floor. When he shifts on the spot, his body looks translucent, a three-dimensional space marked out by those points of light. It’s an amazing moment.
Another flick of the switch, and Umeda is surrounded by a starfield, spreading similar patterns across floor and wall. The starfield moves, scrolling past with lurching changes of speed and direction.
Umeda becomes a dark silhouette against a starry sky, or a camouflaged figure when both are lit up. He jiggles on the spot, the projections going with him, creating variations of moving body and moving image. The image of the starry body loses some of its impact as he works through different patterns, playing with the controls rather than taking us somewhere.
Until 17 January. Box office. London International Mime Festival runs until. www.mimelondon.com
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