Dance: A joystick to behold
Saturday 07 February 1998
Dancers have many obsessions: yoghurt, sticking plaster, Marlboro Lights. Union Dance Company's six performers have acquired a new craze: their PlayStations. After a hard day's touring, they crash out with their little joysticks in their hands to watch the blood and guts flood the screen as the multi-galactic Tekken warriors kick their enemies into orbit in pursuit of some elusive grail-like article. Anyone who spends their leisure time running up the electricity bill will tell you that there's more to it than the habitual dismemberment of inferior beings. Not only does it do wonders for your hand-eye coordination, it's also a deeply spiritual experience.
This delightful means of killing time (for those who prefer it dead) has provided the inspiration for Union Dance's most recent show which claims the dubious distinction of being the first dance work based entirely on a computer game. The piece is divided into four parts and embraces everything from conventional contemporary dance vocabulary to the Brazilian martial art of Capoeira. Just as no modern menu is complete without a dish that recklessly combines jellied eels with pickled bananas, so the modern choreographer feels the need to sample various cultures in outre combinations.
Each of the four parts of Dance Tek Warriors (right) is composed by a different choregrapher, with sections by New York dance-makers Abdel R Salaam and Doug Elkins, and by company members Charemaine Seet and Michael Joseph. Their chosen music is as eclectic as their cultural influences with everything from specially commissioned Anglo-Nigerian music by Tunde Jegende to a Beethoven string quartet. Each segment has a different mood and the Play-Station links range from Michael Joseph's close association (which actually uses PlayStation graphics as its backdrop) to Charemaine Seet's quieter moments.
In less experienced hands, this magpie eclecticism might tend to result in a fidgety, unfocused performance but Union Dance Company has been going since 1984. From the first, this multi-racial young outfit has happily mixed and matched its influences to create programmes of often vibrant and entertaining work. Dance Tek Warriors may be based on the lame-brain pastime of computer game-playing, but the exaggerated graphics with their gravity-defying movements are a challenge to any choreographer - and to the poor dancers obliged to replicate them.
Union Dance Company, Queen Elizabeth Hall, SE1 (0171-960 4242) 12-13 Feb 7.45pm
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