Century of Fools, Barbican, London

Out of Africa
Click to follow
The Independent Culture

This show, the first dance production to be given in the small Pit Theatre, comes from Burkina Faso, and its African origin sets it apart from other contemporary choreography. But its two creator-performers have an additional gloss put on what they do having worked with the French choreographer Mathilde Monnier: they were in, among other pieces, her For Antigone, which played London a few years ago.

Nationality flavours any dance production, but sometimes more than others. It was difficult, for instance, in last month's season of companies from Finland, to see much in the way of common features or influences, and the one choreographer who really impressed me, out of the five who came, was Tommi Kitti, not for any specifically Finnish quality, but because his Still Life for Four Dancers showed something rare nowadays, a real and imaginative care for details, structure, and transitions.

The title of the work,, Century of Fools, comes from the idea that in the 20th century, people allowed opportunities for peace, health, prosperity and progress to be subverted by war and oppression. Luckily there is no attempt to depict this realistically. What the two dancers show is a relationship constantly shifting between co-operation and aggression.

They collaborate in their choreography, with Salia Sanou taking the prime place in this instance. He also has the more impressive role, notable for its jumps and its falls, to land flat on his back or curled up on his side. Seydou Boro shows his strength not only in catching or holding up his partner but also in repeated little bounces up while lying on the floor.

Sometimes they dance in unison, more often they merely echo similar movements, especially of the hands and arms, or go off on their own processes. The clothes they wear, one in white trousers, one in black, with torn singlets, are deliberately bedraggled, as if to expose a disadvantaged background.

The two musicians who share the stage wear clothes in African materials, suiting the folk style of their music. Timbiri Winsey mainly sustains the atmosphere with the harp-like sound of his cora, a plucked instrument that looks like an obese lute. Amadou Kienou plays drums, including a tiny one that fits neatly under an armpit.

Jacob Bamogo's lighting unobtrusively varies the mood, providing a strong ending when the illuminated area gradually reduces and concentrates on an immobile group before giving way to total darkness. A film by Boro about the making of Mathilde Monnier's For Ant-igone can be seen as an epilogue to the evening.

To 14 July (020-76348891)

Comments