Henri Oguike Company, Swan, High Wycombe
Wednesday 31 March 2004
The great moment in Henri Oguike's
Front Line is a stampede along the front of the stage.
The great moment in Henri Oguike's Front Line is a stampede along the front of the stage. Guy Hoare's lighting fixes the dancers in a stripe of light, with deep shadow behind them. They look like figures in a frieze, stamping and shimmying from side to side.
Oguike is one of the new hopes of British modern dance. A celebrated dancer for Richard Alston, he is in great demand as a freelance choreographer. With his own company, he focuses on dance with live music.
Front Line has become the company's signature piece. Set to Shostakovich's Ninth Quartet, played by the Pavao Quartet, it is both angular and flowing, full of bold shapes and brilliant phrasing. In one gorgeous sideways shuffle, each dancer steps out lightly with a lifted knee, then brings the other foot in with a crashing stomp. Their hips swing, their bodies lurch. They stamp more as they move back to use the whole stage. Feet are slapped down in wide-legged marches or on-the-spot shuffles. It still reflects Shostakovich's spikiness, but the musicality is less acute than in the explosive first movement. Oguike is most powerful in his tight structures.
The new White Space combines dance and film. It opens with flashes of light, white lines projected on to a dark screen. We glimpse a dancer silhouetted against them. As the lights come up and the music begins, the film becomes a backdrop. The camera moves over a Mondrian-like grid, or cuts to film of the dance we're watching: agitated in close-up, assured on stage. The recorded music is Scarlatti harpsichord sonatas.
Oguike's dance is half-courtly, half-affected. It is highly organised, with grid floor patterns to match the film behind it. Little turns suggest country dances, and the dancing has a confident ease.
Elsewhere, the dancers bob their heads like pigeons, or crook their wrists on the beat. Oguike keeps returning to those mocking twitches, and they break up the elegance of the dance. The repetition is tied to the insistent harpsichord rhythms, and it starts to look dogged. But there's still some beautiful detail here. FPS (Frames Per Second) opens with an Oguike solo. The music is a Kronos Quartet arrangement of Bill Evans, again played live. Hoare's lighting is a diagonal patch of light, like sun shining through a window. Oguike moves from pane to pane. He's a superb dancer, with an astonishing dynamic range. Much of this solo happens at flickering speed, but it's sensuously phrased. The steps themselves are less memorable than how he dances them. It's the same with a second section, smoothly danced by Nuno Campos and Nuno Silva.
Finale is a bright closing number, the dancers bounding buoyantly through René Aubry's Latin hip-swaying rhythms.
Touring to 22 April. Details on www.henrioguikedance.co.uk
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