Sadler’s Wells
London

19th November, 2021

Stuart Sweeney

Seva has already won an Olivier award for a version of BLKDOG and through the lock-down he extended it to full length. This was my first experience of his work and there was much to savour. Using a mix of hip hop and contemporary dance, he has created a distinctive vocabulary to apply to real life situations. In the programme notes, Seva describes that the initial work was made before Covid but the extended piece resonates with the trauma of our post-Covid society.

As the lights slowly come up, we see hooded figures hunched on the stage sometimes twitching. Are they children? I was never sure. Slowly they come to life as a lighting platform descends and we see them scramble round the stage in short steps, hunched down, with thighs parallel to the floor. This step is repeated throughout BLKDOG and contributes to the distinctive choreography, performed in perfect unison. Later we see high stepping running around the stage and the variations kept my attention throughout.

Botis Seva’s BLKDOG
Photo: Camilla Greenwell

Anguish and trauma are cornerstones of the work and frequently result in harsh conflict, sometimes leading to death. While ensemble movement dominates we also see solos and duets in spotlights. The duets show us desperate people striving for comfort which never seems to last. At one stage children’s bikes appear – a return to childhood maybe? But the clashes and anger remain. The sombre lighting by Tom Visser, adds greatly to the atmosphere.

At the end, the strident sounds give way to religious music and a calmer mood. In the programme, Seva makes clear that his belief in God is a strong theme in his life and as the dancers advance in a line, for the first time in a composed manner, Seva seems to be telling us that this is the way to banish society’s and our woes. While respecting his beliefs, it does seem a little too easy.

Botis Seva has created a disturbing, riveting work and I look forward to seeing more of his creations. The lighting made it hard to identify individuals, so I pay tribute to all the dancers – they deserve a medal.