Siobhan Davies Dance Company, Sadler's Wells, London

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

After more than 30 years of making dances, and 17 of her own group, Davies and her dancers are about to move into a purpose-built building in south London. She's celebrating with a double bill of the company's first and its most recent works.

In White Man Sleeps, made in 1988, Kevin Volans's music, played live, blends harpsichords, viola da gamba and percussion in atmospheric textures. It's hard to tell where David Buckland's set ends and Peter Mumford's lighting begins. Buckland dresses the dancers in body tights, grey with broad bands of blue - were they knitted, or is it just that the piece has a homespun air?

Davies starts with several motifs. The dancers wind their arms around their heads, then tilt sideways, palms pressed together. There are low lifts; the women spring to meet their partners, caught just off the ground. The dancing here is exceptionally even, movements floated rather than bounced. The whole company dances with fluent ease and conviction.

On the first night, Davies was watching them from standing room. Dance Umbrella runs the Jerwood Proms, the stalls opened up. The "prommers" should just have been able to see Adrian Plaut's striking lighting for Bird song.

This 2004 piece was made to be performed in the round; it doesn't project so well from a conventional stage. Plaut divides the stage with spots and lines of light. Dancers wait in quadrants, follow shadows across the floor. Some lie down and swing their arms.

Henry Montes dances a long solo to the call of the Australian pied butcher bird. Twitches run through his torso, as if he were being startled over and over again.

Bird song is long - 45 minutes - and often meagre in style. Montes apart, the dancers are at their most detached. Davies keeps asking them to bend sideways before shaking their hips or shoulders. Those wiggles aren't strutting or sexy; Davies's footwork is generally limited, and that wiggle doesn't affect it. The swung hips seem to mean, "I am a modern dancer and this is what we do." It's bread-and-water minimalism, deliberately bloodless.

Comments