Adzido: Silk, The Place, London

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

Adzido is trying out a new identity with Silk. When the company started, in 1984, it performed traditional African dance and music. Two decades on, Adzido was criticised for taking Arts Council funding without giving enough performances to justify it. Now the relaunched company is moving toward urban and contemporary dance.

Adzido is trying out a new identity with Silk. When the company started, in 1984, it performed traditional African dance and music. Two decades on, Adzido was criticised for taking Arts Council funding without giving enough performances to justify it. Now the relaunched company is moving toward urban and contemporary dance.

In Silk, the South African choreographer Gregory Maqoma sets traditional dance against city conformity. He dresses his dancers in black suits, worn without shirts. They cling to their costumes, struggle out of them, show them off or look weighed down by them. Silk is a 50-minute wrestle with cultural identity.

Ara Moradian's set underlines Maqoma's basic contrast. There are five shop dummies, one for each dancer, lined up at the back of the stage. There's a second group of figures, curly sculptures in red metal, standing to the side. The suited dancers walk quietly about the stage, pacing to a recorded electronic hum. They're drawn into dancing when the real music starts. The live playing, an exuberant percussion score, is the best part of the show. Adzido's musicians build up layers of rhythms, slinky xylophone against thumping drums and dry rattles.

As the music starts up, the dancers begin to strut. Maquoma's steps are full of bird-like twitches. Heads bob, shoulders shake, hands flutter. As the dancers turn, their jackets swing out, showing glimpses of bright lining. One man starts to stamp and shake, shoulders pumping, pulling at his suit. The jacket comes off quickly enough, but the other dancers stop and stare. As he wriggles out of his trousers, the scene comes close to striptease: his hips swing, and he dips into a modest half-crouch.

Relieved of his suit, the stripped dancer is no more relaxed. His solo is full of muscle-man poses, aggressive self-justification. His colleagues cast mocking sidelong glances, stroking their own suits. Left alone, they dash into a display of extra-courtly behaviour.

The two women are more laid back about changing clothes. They slip lightly out of their jackets, hanging them on the dummies. Then they sink to the floor, rolling from side to side, or lie propped on their elbows like sphinxes. Behind them, other dancers rearrange the dummies, laying them face-down on the floor.

There's not much to Maqoma's identity politics: western life leads to conformity and people struggle with individuality. Silk is an unfocused piece, breaking into random scenes and wandering back over the same ground. The strongest dances are those with least cultural baggage.

The five Adzido dancers give a strong, muscular performance. Even in unison dances, they tend to hold their hands differently. Their shared style comes from the weighted moves, the heft and punch of the steps.

Comments