Experimental feature

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Experimental feature

The frozen yet revealing moment which tells so much about movement, about a dancer or a dance, is nothing rare. From Eadweard Muybridge’s pioneering work in the 1890s to Baron de Meyer’s erotically luminous photographs of Nijinsky which speak so clearly about his presence; from the strobe pictures of dancers by Gjon Mili in the 1940s and Harold Edgerton’s micro-second capturing of Markova in a pirouette (and also famously of a bullet smashing into an apple), and Alexey Brodovich amid the swirl of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, the camera has not lied about dance.

Today, Anthony Crickmay shows a mastery in immortalising a figure that becomes the essence of an entire performance – his studies of Lynn Seymour in Anastasia are the best record of this tremendous interpretation. And now we are faced with the Australian Dance Theatre, which has allied itself with the American photographer Lois Greenfield, her digital camera and a battery of electronic wizardry. We see Greenfield on stage, snapping dancers as they posture and bang about this arena, while instant images appear on screens placed as decor, so that we may enjoy the fleeting moment, the all-too-evanescent arc of energy, the bizarre conjunction of limbs, the micro-second close-up of flying bodies, the oh-so-artful immediacy of it all.

The performance is entitled Held (which might be a misprint for either Help! or, given the deafening sound-track and the all-too-brutish lighting, perhaps Hell). I saw it at Sadler’s Wells on Wednesday, before its regional tour during the coming month. What I found most notable, apart from performers who are loathsomely clad in gnawed black outfits and who look like tag-wrestlers for much of the time (and this does not exclude the women), was the lambent innocence of it all.

The movement is crass, and reeks of 1980s rebelliousness; I think of the show as Michael Clark meets Nadar. The effects – the passport-photo booth immediacy – soon pall, and the movement and its interpretation is otherwise nugatory. Prospective audiences are advised that the sound-track is often ear-numbing as well as tedious, save for a Lisztian moment, and that strobe flashing is both very dated in the dance theatre and not a little tiresome. ★☆☆☆☆ Tel 870 737 7737

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