The Featherstonehaughs Draw on the Sketchbooks of Egon Schiele, The Place, London
Thursday 11 November 2010
Egon Schiele's drawings can be unnerving. The Austrian expressionist's delicate lines give his subjects a spindly, neurotic energy. In The Featherstonehaughs Draw on the Sketchbooks of Egon Schiele, choreographer Lea Anderson manages to turn living dancers into the tense bodies of Schiele's pictures.
For the current tour by the Featherstonehaughs, Anderson's all-male troupe, she has reworked her own 1998 dance. It has new music by Steve Blake and Will Saunders, with chugging beat and insistent guitar. Simon Corder's design marks out a square dancing space, outlined in neon strips.
Sandy Powell dresses them in smudged suits, cloudy as a painter's colour wash. Their faces are painted to give the same effect, their hair teased into wild shapes. They stroll and pose like zombie fashion plates, all fierce eyes and languid attitudes.
Anderson and Powell's take on Schiele's nudes is even better. Painted body tights give the dancers jutting hipbones and shoulder blades, dark nipples and genitalia drawn on. An orange-tinted man unfolds himself into the artist's poses, moving with mesmerising authority.
Some of the imagery is precisely from Schiele. Dancers hold up splayed fingers, a gesture from a portrait becoming a stylised motif. Elsewhere, they shuffle along in their angled positions, funny and creepy.
Sometimes Anderson overplays it. There are a few too many pulled faces. The makeup, so striking for the "nude" sequences, looks exaggerated with the dressed bodies.
Just when the strolling might get repetitive, Anderson's sense of structure comes through. She sets the dancers up in pairs, one standing still as the others square their elbows or take long strides. Then the still pair turn their heads in precise unison. That move pulls the whole picture together, making a characteristically witty Anderson pattern.
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