LA Dance Project was formed by Founding Director Benjamin Millepied following his new found stardom as in 2012’s Black Swan as Natalie Portman’s dance partner. He went on to marry Portman and relocate to Los Angeles where he found himself free to call the creative shots at the helm of a new company.
In this triple bill, two of the pieces are choreographed by Millepied himself including one world premiere, One the Other Side. On a first viewing of the company, both works have their roots firmly in the classical genre with wonderfully lyrical movements, performed by dancers with an inherent musicality. The programme’s opener, “Hearts and Arrows” is a neat, plotless work that moves from confident pas de deux with lifts to solos, to full company segments in a continuous stream of kinetic movement. It’s an engaging work that ballet fans will find pleasingly graceful while contemporary fans will find satisfying with its intricacies and adventure.
Millepied’s two offerings are sandwiched between a Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui filling of “Harbor Me”. In contrast to the programme opener, sits firmly in the contemporary genre. Notes tell us that the harbor is a place of shelter, where dancers represent the elements, fire, water and air and all possess the ability to transform or destroy one another, and poses the questions whether one can truly protect the other? The theming in this dimly lit piece is too wrapped up in the theoretical and does not showcase the physical strength of the trio of dancers adequately (Aaron Carr, Morgan Lugo and Robbie Moore.) They twist and contort, navigating around each other’s bodies, firstly moving into poses that support each other before gradually drifting of into duos and then alone. The drab musical accompaniment to this piece doesn’t help it gain traction – it feels like a long twenty minutes for little audience gain.
The evening concludes with On the Other Side featuring the whole company in brightly coloured dresses and jumpsuits against the background of an abstract painting. It’s a return to focus on the beautiful classical technical of these athletic dancers, however, in likeness to the Cherkaoui piece, fails to say much at all. It features all the choreographic intricacies of the first piece but is double the length. The audience understand the different relationships evolving between the different dancers however this never builds to the exciting conclusion wanted and that these performers are capable of. The arrangements because repetitive between the pas de deux’s and group work and once again, this piece is in need of serious editing. The individual performances are strong, especially the wonderful lithe and elegant Lilja Ruriksdottir who stands out from the rest with her long limbs.
Each work from LA Dance Project shows promise but the recurring theme of editing required and the lack of clarity in storytelling mean the most successful pieces are the shortest and most traditional. Millepied has the ability to create wonderfully emotive choreography but needs to be more concise in the future.
Review by Vikki Jane Vile
L.A. Dance Project is a Los Angeles-based artistic collective founded in 2012 by renowned choreographer and dancer Benjamin Millepied, former Director at the Paris Opera Ballet. Following its London stage premiere in autumn 2013, L.A. Dance Project returns to Sadler’s Wells with a much-anticipated mixed bill.
In this programme, Millepied presents the world premiere of the final instalment of his Gems Trilogy in collaboration with composer Philip Glass and the support of the historic jewellery house Van Cleef & Arpels. Millepied will also present the UK debut of his widely acclaimed Hearts & Arrows, again set to the music of Philip Glass and a visual concept by Liam Gillick. Completing the bill is Harbor Me, choreographed by Sadler’s Wells Associate Artist Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui.
Rosebery Avenue, London, EC1R
24th and 25th June 2016