Sadler’s Wells Theatre

30 November and 1 December 2018

Maggie Foyer

Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s Icon is filled with that elusive ‘feel good factor’. The harmony between dancers and musician is palpable and the dancers meld in huddles of cosy bodies. Then there is modelling of clay figures: a child’s pastime and also one that takes us back to the very genesis of our artistic endeavours. Charkaoui has found the concept, found the artists and created the magic.

The other player are the dozens of ‘gorms’, tiny clay men in the image of set designer and long-time collaborator, Antony Gormley. They get squidged early on but the clay is reincarnated in many forms as headdresses and extensions for the dancers’ bodies. The final clay form is a giant human shape, sitting knees tucked under chin. Humans have always shaped their gods in their own form and in a neat closing moment, all the dancers assume the same shape. Homage or friendly empathy? Or a bit of each? Who knows.

Icon, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui,GoteborgsOperans Danskompani and Eastman Photo: Mats Backer

Icon, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui,GoteborgsOperans Danskompani and Eastman
Photo: Mats Backer

Around a third of the cast are from Cherkaoui’s Eastman company but the joins are barely visible as the dancers move in his signature street cum contemporary form with an injection of the quicksilver hand gestures that were so effective in Fractus V. The talented Patrick Williams Seebacher (TwoFace) is on hand to add facial flexibility and gentle teddy-bear softness to his large frame that moves with effortless ease. The ensemble moments bring the stage alive, filled with large ever-changing shapes of multiple working parts.

Noetic, the second evening of GöteborgsOperans Danskompani’s short visit, opens with a fiery burst of Japanese drumming from Shogo Yshii before giving way to Szymon Brzóska’s symphonic score and the voice of Miriam Andersén that buries into your subconscious. The setting moves from the earthy weight of wet clay to hi-tech sophistication and the dancers to urban cool in the bespoke tailoring of fashion gurus, Les Hommes. But norms are contested as stiletto heels become a statement, alternating with bare feet and occasionally borrowed by a suited gent. In this world of bohemian chic, dresses also resist regular gender classifications but never lose style.

Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui's Noetic, GöteborgsOperans Danskompani Photo: Bengt-Wanselius

Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s Noetic, GöteborgsOperans Danskompani
Photo: Bengt-Wanselius

Noetic is about things that matter, finding connections in a world of patterns and exploring the space between. The concept of humanity’s interconnection utilised to releases our potential and creativity runs through many of Cherkaoui’s works. This time in the startling contrast of a pristine twenty first century setting. The choreography is effectively built on the performers’ skill set and Gormley’s carbon fibre strips, bent into circles, add a brilliant display of ingenious shapes.

Solos, some quite brilliantly conceived and performed, skim the floor and the air and soon morph into duos, trios and ensembles as the dancers mould and manipulate each other’s bodies to generate a corporate body of movement. The dancers are extraordinarily versatile in moving freely and fluidly despite the heels and suits.

Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui's Noetic, GöteborgsOperans Danskompani Photo: Mats Backer

Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s Noetic, GöteborgsOperans Danskompani
Photo: Mats Backer

Swedish singer, Andersén, fits the bill flawlessly: the quality of her voice conjuring otherworldliness while her look is pure pop icon. The same duality of modernity and timelessness comes in Brzóska’s intensely beautiful score. Noetic offers the platform and the artists do it justice.

It was a thrill to see this company of excellent dancers in two such diverse evenings and their enthusiastic reception will hopefully bring further invitations.