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  • Zosia Jo

Strictly and Sadlers


Strictly is doing wonders for dance in the public eye. There is no denying it. Not only has it brought ballroom dancing back in a big way, its also showing people that they too can be dancers. Look at Lisa Riley, Dave the hairy biker- if they can do it… Which is brilliant. Plus the dresses are awesome. A great time for contemporary dance to hop on the bandwagon! Partner dances, contact improvisation (not an unknown combination).

Last night I watched a couple of Strictly dances before heading down to Sadlers Wells to see Rambert (I’m enjoying a brief city break for Psychotherapy training this week and am taking advantage). It all got me to thinking about partner work. It’s always been my main interest, and this winter I’ll be making a dance short with filmmaking student Shannon Walsh and Parkour artist, Mike Newman, so it’s timely to explore. There is something about partnering, just like love stories, which we will never ever tire of. It’s in our nature.

Meanwhile, I think my tastes are changing. Again. I loved Rambert as a young dancer (pre-training) and all I wanted in the world was to dance Ruby Tuesday in Christopher Bruce’s Rooster. When Mark Baldwin took over, and as my training progressed, I lost interest. I always wondered if this was purely growing more sophisticated tastes or if my bitterness at not ever blossoming into a technique maestro clouded my judgment. I’m inclined to think it’s a bit of both. (I still love every Bruce work I’ve seen though and I can’t wait for Rooster to be remounted in May.)

Last night though, the bill pleasantly surprised me. Though the first two pieces were not without the overused Cunningham posturing, each piece was entirely different and each held merit (yes even Baldwin’s.)

Subterrain by Ashley Page was just what I wanted to see with my impending duet in mind. Made up mostly of partnering, Page’s piece was packed with detailed and intricate contact work. Partners seemed perpetually linked and moved in and out of beautiful lifts in varied and intriguing ways.

Mark Baldwin’s The Comedy of Change boasted some brilliantly quirky imagery that reminded me, somewhat immodestly, of my own Rock Ballet in I am an Island. The costumes at the beginning were fantastically effective, enhancing the movement beautifully and simply. However, I could have done without the costume change that unfortunately put me in mind of a dance off between 3 minstrels and 4 members of the KKK. Guess who won?

All in all my favourite Baldwin work to date, though I was left wondering if its possible to highly train a dancer to that point of physical skill without robbing them of the idiosyncrasies necessary to retain a sense of individual expression.

My question was answered and attitude humbled by the final piece- Barak Marshall’s The Castaways. Rambert… acting?? Yes. And though their acting itself was a little 1 dimensional their ability to perform with character, and to express as individuals, was indisputable. A piece all at once entertaining, beautifully performed, choreographically interesting and politically prudent. Lovely stuff.

As for my own duet, time to hit the studio.


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