Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London, UK; June 29, 2014

Stuart Sweeney

Sadler's Wells Sampled“Playlist” marked the finale of the Sadler’s Sampled Festival. As Chief Executive and Artistic Director, Alistair Spalding, wrote in the programme, “The performances are designed to be introductions to the variety of dance styles that can be seen on the Sadler’s Wells stage, ranging from contemporary and hip-hop to ballet and tango.” With cheap standing places in front of the stage throughout the fortnight run and fine works such as Dada Masilo’s “Swan Lake”, Sampled is a fine introduction to the full range of what dance can offer. In addition, the Extras programme featured daily a variety of experiences: installations, films, live music and post-show workshops.

“Playlist” featured six companies covering a wide range of dance forms and proved an effective formula for the enthusiasts, both new and experienced, particularly for the movement quality of the artists on show, if not always for the choreography.

The evening opened with a showing from the initial workshops for ZooNation’s new production, “The Show of Life”, about a 24 hour live theatre experience about an orphan’s journey from baby to young adulthood. Clearly this has strong links with Peter Weir’s “The Truman Show” with a theatre setting replacing TV, but uncredited as yet. I hope this didn’t cause any problems as arose for Matthew Bourne’s “Play Without Words” which didn’t initially didn’t credit Joseph Losey’s “The Servant” as a forerunner – an omission Bourne remedied in revival productions.

The transfer of the setting of the ZooNation story from TV to theatre stretches credibility, but there is plenty of time to sort that out. In earlier productions such as “Some like it hip-hop” the talented performers certainly showed how terrific street dance, song and humour can combine to make great theatre. The individual talents were all there in this showing and I hope the story can be adapted to continue their run of successes.

Tango is a regular feature at Sadler’s and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s “Milonga” enhanced the already high credibility of the genre. Gisela Galeassi and German Cornejo from that show brought two duets. They are dancers of the highest technical quality able to move at breakneck speed through the complex flicks, swivels and scary lifts of Argentine Tango with breathtaking skill. Their first duet, “A Los Amigos”, brought all these elements to the fore in a dazzling display, but it was too fast for my taste and the understated sensuality of the best Tango was missing. However the slower paced “Susu” remedied this problem in a duet inspired by “Romeo and Juliet”. The audience gave both pieces a rousing cheer acknowledging the skill and artistry of the performers.

Daniel Proietto presented a solo, “Sinnerman”, to Nina Simone’s song, choreographed by Norwegian Alan Lucien Oyen. It featured a neck to toes sequinned suit and in dim light, the suit sparkled like diamonds. Proietto is another highly fluent mover, his body curving in delicious shapes. Whilst the choreography showed off his talent, it was repetitive and didn’t pick up the themes of the song.

Akram Khan’s work for the National Youth Dance Company, “The Rashomon Effect/Vertical Road” provided exhilarating unison dance interspersed with solo additions using elements of Khan’s modern Kathak. If Nitin Sawnhey’s music was sometimes too relentless, the powerful images and professional standards of the young dancers were a delight.

“And now for something completely different.” Well yes and no: if the pas de deux from “Don Quixote” was in a different style to anything else on display at “Playlist”, the theme of dance quality was continued by Celine Gittens and Tyrone Singleton of Birmingham Royal Ballet. They brought passion as well as technical ability to their performance of this chestnut and were cheered mightily.

The Jasmin Vardimon Company closed the show with “Tomorrow”, extracts from the company repertoire crafted into a harmonious whole. Vardimon has a real talent for ensemble dance and the shapes and variety of combinations always retained my interest. The title was particularly appropriate as six dancers from her student group, JV2, joined the main company.

The success and vitality of the Sampled season is undeniable and I have every confidence that this refreshing chance to see both familiar and unknown work will continue for many years to come.