In the modern dance world, dancer and choreographer, Russell Maliphant, is a name which commands respect. Ballet fans still remember his very successful pairing with star dancer, Sylvie Guillem in Push, filmed at Sadler’s Wells. It still is compelling viewing on youtube https://bit.ly/2SxRJVj .
Since that time, Maliphant has won many awards for his choreography and in 2018 attracted 5-star reviews, dancing with his wife, Dana Fouras.
maliphantworks3 at the Coronet Theatre this week was a hot ticket, particularly so after Fouras’s announcement that she would be giving her final performances with Maliphant.
First off on the programme was The Space Between, a piece of thirty minute duration.
In the darkness, the walls of the Coronet Theatre stage sprang to life with molecular projections. The molecular lasers illuminated two rocks at the front of the stage. They morphed into molluscs, then took on amoebic forms, from which sprang a man and a woman. Fouras’s water soundscape was accompanied by electronic beeping, like atoms spitting into life. The dancers, seemingly joined at he hip, broke away and started twisting and turning like dervishes. A mesh of light wove itself around Maliphant’s muscled torso. He twisted his neck in what seemed an awkward position. It dawned on me later that it was the spiralling effect of the light. It became hard to distinguish the man from the light powering him. It was a brilliant invocation of Artificial Intelligence and robots.
I’d never seen lighting work so well with a dancer’s body. It was a tribute to both Maliphant and Lighting Designer Panagiotis Tomaras. And the Coronet’s intimate space was ideal to stage this unique sensorial and visual experience.
Two short films followed. Dana Fouras dances to Rachmaninov, her feminine lines, her loose hair merging with floating drapery. As she moves her hair, her clothes take on the form of an Iris, a bird, an ink blot, all to the Prelude in C Sharp Minor, curiously played on a pub piano. Hypnotic and beautiful.
In Film 2, Maliphant displays his incredible dancer’s discipline. To a hypnotic, slow drum beat, he lets his straight body rise and fall like a stone, with the support of rubber bands hitched under his armpits. Don’t ask me why but this is compulsive watching.
The final item of the night was Duet, a work that Maliphant and Fouras had already performed to great acclaim in 2018.
The stage was as plain as can be. Gone were the lighting effects. Simply a man and a woman clad in black, standing and swaying to a few notes on the bouzouki. Maliphant, shaven-headed looked pale and ethereal whereas Fouras, with her long, dark plait, seemed to have walked off a Greek isle. They danced to the emotionally charged Una Furtiva Lagrima sung by the great tenor, Enrico Caruso. The choreography seemed to be partially rooted in Greek dance, interspersed with the jumps and lifts of ballet. The dance was measured, ordered, tinged with love’s rapture.
Maliphant is magnificent to watch. He exhibits complete muscular control, strength, which allows him to create the perfect line or angle. What comes through in his choreography is great intelligence and insight into the inner workings of man, nature and life itself. Duet is all emotion, pathos. The Space Between and the films meanwhile, demonstrate Maliphant’s preoccupation with the body and its ability to metamorphose into just about anything, animate or inanimate. A world view which seems pantheistic.
An inspiring and engrossing evening. As it is not overly long and perfectly formed, it leaves the audience wanting more.
maliphantworks3 on at the Coronet Theatre, Notting Hill until Feb 22.
If you want to know more about the man, read my interview with Russell Maliphant here https://artmuselondon.com/2020/01/20/interview-with-choreographer-and-dancer-russell-maliphant/