Danish Dance Theatre (Dansk Dansteater), Danshallerne, Copenhagen, Denmark;
May 7, 2015
Tim Rushton’s Black Diamond is a piece of theatre magic to delight the senses. A fruitful marriage of dance, music and design rendered predominantly in black and white, it nevertheless embraces the fifty shades of grey in between.
Copenhagen has another Black Diamond, a striking architectural landmark in black granite which houses the Royal Library. Like its namesake, the design elements features a backdrop, (designed by Johan Kølkjær) of polished facets that refract the light: dark and brilliant in Act 1, pale and silvery in Act 2, while Charlotte Østergaard also picks up the cubist angles in her imaginative monochrome costumes. The lighting, by Johan Bjerregaard, is effective and innovative and, thankfully, it supports rather than dominates the performance.
Concepts of identity, the alien and the human and also discovering the familiar in the foreign, offer a slew of interesting relationships and choreographic material which Rushton uses to create an abstract work rich in meaning. In his world of fantastic shapes and dynamic movement the dancers, at times masked and alien and at others vulnerable and human, search for the most precious thing symbolised by a shining ball of light.
Rushton’s team of fourteen dancers are a feisty mix of strong individuals. Some of his most effective choreography comes in the unequal groupings of several men and one woman or vice versa resulting in aerial lifts and innovative partnering. There were also the duets and trios; confrontational but seldom aggressive and giving opportunities to individual dancers, particularly impressive were Luca Marazia and Lucia Pasquini.
The pairing of two dancers neutralised in anonymous figure-hugging grey from head to foot thus masking all identity, conversely brought out the comedy highlights. They open the second act plaited together and continue to wrap and wind until they manage to extricate themselves, eventually confronting each other like a couple of ballroom dancers aided all the while by some seriously weird music. More fun is had when they are carried around by fellow dancers and posed like shop dummies; often at risk of falling over. However it is humanity that triumphs as in the final moment Elena Martinez Ibar is stripped bare of her amorphous body suit and walks forward to take the shining jewel and cradle it to her bare body.
The music is drawn from several sources with each act closing to music by Philip Glass. The final section set to the second movement of Glass’ Violin Concerto achieves an almost transcendental state. Dancers are drawn across the stage standing on the trailing length of the men’s black cloaks. As though floating on water they drift by, weaving patterns in the air with expressive arms.
Black Diamond premiered in May 2014 and has toured extensively and now returns to Danshallerne. Rushton’s engaging work of constantly shifting moods and vibrant dance interspersed by evocative theatrical images is proving another success for the company.