Home » London Theatre Reviews » NEBT – Genesis Dance Project at Sadler’s Wells | Review

NEBT – Genesis Dance Project at Sadler’s Wells | Review

A couple of videos, one in each act, provide some context to the dance pieces being performed, showing snippets of the rehearsal process. It was a bit like watching video footage of participants in Strictly Come Dancing before they do some actual dancing, although I am pleased to report that at this show, there was far more dancing than there was backstory. ‘Baroque Encounters’ opened the evening, with a series of short pieces with the company in various formations, with costumes that seemed to flow as much as the dancers themselves.

NEBT in 'I Can't Dance' by Kristen McNally. Photo by Ash.
NEBT in ‘I Can’t Dance’ by Kristen McNally. Photo by Ash.

The long red outfits meant some of their body movements were somewhat concealed, drawing the audience’s eyes to their arms and hands instead. I had a look at a couple of online videos of baroque dancing after the show – and both the usual style of dress and the dance movements involved were commensurate with what I saw on stage. Technically, this may have been a new work, but it was a slight disappointment to discover that there wasn’t much, if anything, fundamentally new about it. Even the accompanying music was by Johann Sebastian Bach.

‘All in Passing’ had a living composer (Nicholas Thayer) which by itself gave the dance a more contemporary feel than the one that preceded it. The performance had a good amount of fluidity, portraying (presumably) momentary encounters people have with one another. Some of these situations seem to be in an enclosed space. At one point, there were so many arms flailing about, one person seemingly on top of another, that I wasn’t sure what to make of it. Was it resembling an orgy? Those people in lockdown fighting each other to grab what they believed to be the last toilet rolls on the planet off the supermarket shelves just after the store opened for the day?

After the interval, six songs by Genesis played out over the sound system, accompanied by dancing, and in some cases, video projections, a couple of which were so slick and sophisticated I found myself paying more attention to the CGI than the dancers. It wasn’t quite an assault on the senses, mainly thanks to the long instrumental breaks in some of the songs – all part of progressive rock, apparently. If I had to pick a favourite, I’d plump for ‘The Cinema Show’, whose lyrics told a mini story in any event, capitalised on by Ruth Brill’s choreography and Lou Cope’s dramaturgy.

There wasn’t, to my untrained ears, that much difference between one song and the next, though it was with some amusement that choreographer Kristen McNally appeared to interpret ‘Invisible Touch’ to mean ‘non-existent touch’, with Genevieve Heron and Nicholas Vavrečka coming within one-eighth of an inch of one another at various points but never actually making contact. Heron’s footwork made me think of the Barbie movie, when the title character walked around as though she were wearing high heels, even when she wasn’t.

As some of the songs faded out, it reminded me (for readers old enough to recall) of Top of the Pops, where songs would be performed in front of an audience, and fade out rather than come to a definitive end, before cheering and applause erupted to fill the silence. The irony was not lost on the audience as ‘I Can’t Dance’ began to play, with nine dancers often moving as one entity, and elements of Bob Fosse’s signature moves kept seeping through. This sort of thing won’t be to everyone’s taste: as some of Genesis’ material was fairly abstract, some of the dancing was equally, if not more, open to interpretation. I wouldn’t mind seeing more ballet set to chart music: I wonder if David Bowie’s estate would grant permission for his music to be used in a similar way.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

NEW ENGLISH BALLET THEATRE bring a dynamic bill of world-class ballet to London’s Lilian Baylis Studio/Sadler’s Wells on November 2nd and 3rd. Featuring the music of GENESIS, the company will perform THE GENESIS DANCE PROJECT – a high powered programme of contemporary ballet set to some of the band’s best known songs.

All in Passing
Choreography: Peter Leung
Music: Nicholas Robert Thayer
Costume Design: Peter Leung
Lighting Design: Andrew Ellis

Baroque Encounters
Choreography: Daniela Cardim
Music: Johann Sebastian Bach
Costume Design: April Dalton
Lighting Design: Andrew Ellis

Watcher of the Skies Ripples
Choreography: Wayne Eagling
Music: Genesis
Costume Design: Nina Kobiashvili
Lighting Design: Andrew Ellis

Firth of Fifth
Choreography: Valentino Zucchetti
Music: Genesis
Costume Design: Nina Kobiashvili
Lighting Design: Andrew Ellis

The Cinema Show
Choreography: Ruth Brill
Music: Genesis
Costume Design: Nina Kobiashvili
Lighting Design: Andrew Ellis

I Can’t Dance
Invisible Touch

Choreography: Kristen McNally
Music: Genesis
Costume Design: Nina Kobiashvili
Lighting Design: Andrew Ellis

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