Sadler’s Wells
London

30th September 2019

Stuart Sweeney

Angelin Preljocaj is one of the foremost dance creators working today. In Les Noces his steps match the impassioned Stravinsky score and the evening length Le Parcis an elegant master work that promises to be in the Paris Opera Ballet repertoire for many years to come.

La Fresque
Photo: Jean-Claude Carbonne

His works often feature underlying conflict, such as the class struggle in his Romeo and Juliet or the gender clashes in his Rite of Spring. More recently he has turned his attention to tales of fantasy and following his Snow White, we now see La Fresque (The Mural), based on a mediaeval Chinese story. It’s a slight tale, but Preljocaj captures this fantasy land with his dynamic choreography and stunning video projections by the Constance Guisset Studio.

La Fresque
Photo: Jean-Claude Carbonne

Two friends, Chu and Meng, take refuge from a storm in a temple and are invited to examine a wall mural depicting a group of girls. Chu becomes so fascinated by one of them, the Girl, that he is transported into the mural. The dance erupts into life with the five girls sitting round an oval platform with arms and elbows swinging and their long hair flowing back and forth at high speed. We then see a series of tableaux as Chu explores this new world. The dance whether slow or rapid always retained my attention, partly due to Preljocaj’s distinctive movement and partly the superb dancers. However, I didn’t feel I learnt much about this fantasy world and although Chu’s relationship with the Girl is displayed to some extent in a flowing duet, their love affair seems underplayed, given this is the driver for his transport into the mural.

La Fresque
Photo: Jean-Claude Carbonne

Hair plays a prominent part with Guisset’s wonderful projections and an extraordinary scene where four girls fold and entwine the hair of Girl, a bride to be. Finally when three soldiers throw Chu out of the fresco, he is reunited with his friend, who has been waiting for only a few minutes. They look back to the mural and the enchanted girl now has her hair bound up with a flower, signifying a married woman.

While La Fresque doesn’t have the gravitas or resonance of some of his earlier work, it would be churlish to deny its dynamism and innovative ensemble movement.