Sadler’s Wells has a reputation for innovation and being prepared to try new things that challenge an audience’s acceptance of how music, poetry and dance should be produced and presented. I say this because once more I headed to North London for a visit to the Lilian Baylis Studio and their Wild Card selection The Palest Light.
This was an interesting evening from the start with the performance beginning while we were waiting in the foyer where the music of Polbrone by brothers Andrea and Simone Salvatici was being piped out to us. While this was happening, we were taken into the auditorium where the seats had been removed and there were instead deck chairs and massive pillows placed around the space. As the audience came in and took their sets/bits of the floor, the music continued. This was not standard music – this was the first time I’ve seen anyone play a guitar with what looked like a cello bow – but it was haunting and quite amazing to listen to and take in.
Following on from this, Alice Chauchat presented her intriguingly titled piece Togethering, a Group Solo. This started out with Alice talking about spaces and, in fact challenging perceived wisdom about what spaces are and who is occupying them at any given time. This was a really fascinating topic that set me off thinking in a way I hadn’t before. Alice moved on and talked about more topics including togetherness. Each topic raised questions in my head and really had a sideswipe at what I thought I knew or understood. Along with the speech, Alice had inserted dance into her performance.
For the next piece Marco Florio with Sound Bath, the audience was advised that it was best appreciated lying on the floor. Have to say that personally I was very happy on my deck chair and just lay back to take in improvised flow of sounds in which Marco Florio played on Himalayan Bowls, Quartz Crystal Singing Bowls and Gongs. It was quite amazing to experience this piece as the vibrations really took over the space and became the one focal point for the mind. It is difficult to fully articulate how the music made me feel but I was totally drawn in by it and was actually a shame when it finally ended.
The penultimate piece was Instructions for Performance Resistant Bodies and Care by Demit Unal, which took audience participation to a new level of intensity as we were asked to pair up – preferably with someone we didn’t know – and touch each other in ways that do not come naturally to the reserved British theatregoer. Whilst I was happy to observe from my deckchair, I was surprised how many people did take part and the enthusiasm some of them put into their touching. The movement and touching was accompanied by some poetic reading being done by another volunteer audience member.
Finally it was the turn of the evening’s curator Pepa Ubera in collaboration with Josefina Camus and sound artist Simone Salvatici to present a piece called Ellipsis Land. This started very strongly with the two dancers lying on the floor and, thanks to an overhead camera, being projected as standing up on the back wall. As this is the ‘normal’ way for people to appear, the brain accepts this reality even though, by lying on the floor, the dances range of movements was completely different to those available when standing up. All in all, this piece was very striking initially and it was pretty confusing for the mind trying to rationalise people being in a certain position but able to do things that position says can’t be done. The music really helped by being in its own way very different and each time my mind thought it had found and underlying melody, something changed and we were back to square one.
So, by the end of The Palest Light my poor old brain felt as if it had been running a marathon with each part of it being worked trying to make sense of the world it was being presented with. Even now, a couple of days later, I’m still remembering the various elements such as the opening music and the wonderful poem about space both of which I loved. Whilst some of the dance went on a bit long for me – I’m very old fashioned when it comes to seeing a dance production – it is still highly memorable and I’m really glad I had a chance to be taken completely out of my theatrical comfort zone and try something I would never have considered going to myself. The Sadler’s Wells Wild Card season has to be applauded for bringing new and innovative ideas to the audience.
Review by Terry Eastham
The Palest Light, an existing night of performance curated by choreographer Pepa Ubera at the Lilian Baylis Studio on Thursday 3rd and Friday 4th March 2016.
About the evening, Ubera said: “The Palest Light started as an evening of performance in 2013. As a dance artist attracted to exploration, I was driven to share what I found exciting from the artistic scene of East London where I live and work. The evening then evolved over five different iterations, during which time I discovered that a belief in poetic thinking and imagination is key to my curatorial approach. This edition of the Palest Light is about creating a shared moment that is socially aware and artistically curious, hopefully challenging how people usually relate to what they experience.”