Culture review: Neo Ballet – LIFE!

‘To inspire and innovate’. It would seem that this was their principal goal, and with the present production they have certainly succeeded. Led by Argentinian choreographer, Maria Clara Irisarri, NeoBallet showcased themselves at The Place: Robin Howard Dance Theatre.  Breaking the boundaries of convention is often said to be a big risk, especially for a première, but for NeoBallet this risk was one well worth taking.

Dancers for NeoBallet ‘s production of LIFE!

The dancers took the stage in formations of three, first the three women, and then the three men. To intertwine there were then sequences with pair work, revealing increasing variety and complexity of movement from the individual performers. This opening third allowed the audience to be introduced to the dancers, developing the dancers’ introduction of their central themes – needless to say their central themes were not that evident until the end of the show.

Jonathan Moody, who played a solo piece on the keyboard certainly displayed talent, although the connection of his playing to the show’s themes, and his engagement with the audience, were not strongly evident. Despite this, when his electric sound was combined with the movement of the dancers a spark was lit and the stage was bought back to life.

Lighting was used to create a  remarkably striking effect, as the orange backdrop and low-key lighting presented the dancers in silhouette, dramatically outlining the precision and flowing harmony  of a worldwide spectrum of traditional and modern repertoires.

As well as revealing the true essence of neo-classical ballet, through this infusion of Contemporary Dance, Tango and Tribal movements, the show displayed a remarkable versatility of dancing and choreography which kept the audience spellbound.

Without doubt, the second live musician – Jerry Sadowsky – contributed richly to bringing the stage to life, as his solo performance on the drums was an engaging and upbeat set that opened the finale superbly.

Remarkably, without in any way undermining the dynamic of classical ballet, these multinational dancers created a charged atmosphere through a kaleidoscope of movement, in perfect conjunction with the unusually fast dance tempo from Sadowsky’s drumbeat.

Any dance performance will be judged by the skills of the dancers and the choreographers, but what really takes a show to the next level is the way the dancers are presented.  For this production, Christopher de Gabriele, the company’s fashion designer, has done a remarkable job on the costumes.  Throughout the majority of the show the dancers wore simple coloured clothing that kept the emphasis firmly on their movements – although the peplum tops designed into leotards did allow the subtlest hint of fashion to peep through! Then, the most exceptional costumes were presented at the finale, where black cat suits covered in shimmering glitter, with a skin revealing back, produced a spectacular climax.

A story line, attempted to be portrayed through video clips, did not follow through the show at all. The video clips which had no dialogue, displayed a young girl walking through the streets. Additionally, the second clip showing 3 couples, all had no beginning, middle or end – it was all rather random. In relation to LIFE! the rather dramatic fall of one of the male dancers, which presumably relates to the concept of death and reincarnation, was the only connection to the dancers and the notion of LIFE!

In short, however, this is a show that did fuse an extraordinary variety of movement, music, fashion and theatrical effects.
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