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Unknown Pleasures by CNN-Ballet De Lorraine at Sadler’s Wells

Unknown PleasuresWhat a pleasure of assorted treats is this dance event. Put aside all concerns about not having visible branded choreographic names to rely on, this is Sadler’s Wells and the Dance Umbrella Festival. Quality assured. The whole point of the evening is about being able to appreciate great work without the usual labels being attached. You might want to guess who they might be of course.

It has been five international choreographers ( aged from their 30’s to their 70’s) who have worked anonymously, with CNN Ballet De Lorraine, sharing their creativity here to new and fabulous effect. Creating some of those extended moments of sublimity that the best of contemporary dance, performed very well, can provide.

You’ll have to be fast to see this though. There are only two performances scheduled, one on 7th October and the other on 8th October 2016.

The evening starts slowly, dancers visible behind an opaque curtain of multi-coloured squares before emerging into movement and silence, then with voice, suggesting Africa perhaps, nature certainly. A theme that is returned to over and again in interludes.

The spinning dance which comes afterwards is intriguing and hypnotic, building to an impressive intensity as twenty dancers with letters on their shirts spin together to create illusion and unity beneath the light of a burning sun. Don’t forget to read the messages they cumulatively send at the end of this section.

A following piece describes the balances and temptations of excess even two ordinary people in an ordinary relationship may experience. The music becomes perfectly lovely in its searing use of strings here although this is perhaps the least sensational part of the evening.

The penultimate piece is exquisite. It’s worth going to this show just to see this section of the evening alone. Nine dancers dressed in close fitting gold fleshed bodysuits engage in balletic movements of poise and beauty accompanied by a stately gavotte, suggesting isolation and loneliness before coming together in poignant, moving harmony. Watching it you know you are privileged to be seeing something extraordinary.

As if this is not sufficient the dramatic beats of the opening strains of Bolero ushers us towards the final climax of the evening, Ravel’s music released by this performance from cliche into something fresh and sexy and exciting once again, just as it should be. It is made perfectly clear that all the dancers on stage are waiting their turn to be summoned to sexual fulfilment, their containment cleverly expressed in the selected choreography. Only two dancers are allowed to explore their longings on this stage however. Lust being represented as well as grace. Moving on from the urgent and dangerous to the charming. This is another wonderful piece, not to be missed.

The evening has been created by an artistic team of more than thirty five people, all anonymous. Those responsible for the emotionally reactive music, the lights, costumes, stage design, none is known.. Only the dancers are identified, those individual who as an ensemble perform the combination of classic balletic movements with the more contemporary dance moves, required of them, beautifully.

There may be none of the big choreographic names visible on the exterior of this particular brown paper package, but the art and expertise involved in this production is certainly visible onstage. It’s a great start to the Dance Umbrella Festival, setting a standard of quality for what is to come.

4 stars

Review by Marian Kennedy

Unknown Pleasures is a completely anonymous programme – no names, no fame, and no glory – just the chance to experience an evening of dance freed from reputation, attribution or audience expectation.

Five international choreographers – four women and one man, ranging from their 30s to their 70s – share their distinctive voices to produce an evening of invention and surprise. Performed by 20 dancers from CCN – Ballet de Lorraine, this is a choreographic carte blanche for both audiences and creators.

Unknown Pleasures is curated by Dance Umbrella together with pioneering French company Centre Chorégraphique National – Ballet de Lorraine.

Sadler’s Wells
Rosebery Avenue, London, EC1R
7 & 8 October 2016


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