"We have a winner," said my companion, as the lights went up. Sadler's Wells Sampled is a variety evening, a specially-priced pick-and-mix where audiences can try out the range of the London dance house's programming. In such a gala format, the virtuosity of hip-hop or ballet usually come off best. This time, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui's Faun meant contemporary dance made the strongest impact. The piece updates the Nijinsky ballet, using both the Debussy score and extra music by Nitin Sawhney, James O'Hara encounters Daisy Phillips in a lush encounter in a forest. The dancing is both serene and animalistic.
Some Like It Hip Hop, by the street dance company ZooNation, was another hit. This company is best known for Into the Hoods, a hip-hop take on Sondheim and fairy tales, but the new show looks even better. With live singing and bouncy performances, it has a sharp sense of a community at work. Women and geeks sidle around a macho culture, matching the aggressive male moves but fighting for their own identities. It's boldly danced and often very funny. Two women disguise themselves as men to get ahead – which means that, as they take on hip-hop battles, they have to keep a grip on their own false moustaches.
A planned duet by American Ballet Theatre stars had to be cancelled when David Hallberg's plane was delayed by bad New York weather. Instead, the glamorous Paloma Herrera danced a variation from Raymonda. This was big, grand dancing, but the solo doesn't quite work out of context.
Sampled also presents the winner of the theatre's global online dance contest, chosen from videos on YouTube. James Wilton's The Shortest Day suggests a heavy-metal Russell Maliphant, mixing curving lines and hostile music. The performance had an energy that was very appealing.
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