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Russell Maliphant Dance Company Vortex at Sadler’s Wells

This is a rewarding piece of work superbly danced by the dancers of the Russell Maliphant’s Dance Company.

The bridge of connection between Jackson Pollock’s dynamic, expressionist works of art and dance is an excellent find by prominent choreographer and director, Russell Maliphant.

Vortex RMDC. Roswitha Chesher.
Vortex RMDC. Roswitha Chesher.

He has used successfully used works of artists as a frame for his choreography before, previously inspired by Diaghilev’s sketches and August Rodin’s sculptures.

To have spent any time with Jackson Pollock’s One: Number 31,1950, a vast painting usually on display on the 4th floor at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, is to know the work’s energy, scale and tangle of layers. All this is successfully depicted in Vortex.

In addition, Maliphant externalises, through dance associated emotions and feelings in the act of creation. There are lovely depictions of inspiration and flow, success and connection.

The sheer heft of physicality involved in creating these paintings is also described. An artist’s studio is not a place of glamour. It is from a bucket hung high above the stage that sand is released as apparent powder (paint) turning into gorgeous, curling shapes before transforming again into patterns on the floor as if it is painted on one of Pollock’s big canvases. Very effective.

Maliphant, who is classically trained, has used a wide palette of dance forms in this piece, again linking to Pollock who also started from the classical traditions in painting and changed them.

The first act depicts the act of creation on the canvas from the point of view of the artist. The shorter second act summons the same act of creation emerging from inside the canvas, its darker, and more mysterious.

The lighting by designer, Ryan Joseph Stafford, is superb throughout. The dancers move through bands of light cast in some of Pollock’s familiar colourings as if they are shadows threading layers.

The score to Vortex by Katya Richardson is surprisingly derived almost entirely from the sounds that can be produced by a piano. it turns out the range of sounds that may coaxed from this instrument by way of electronic and string manipulations and inspired by composer John Cage, provide a substantial palette of musical colour. The emergence of J.S Bach’s Prelude in C Minor is a lovely, lyrical moment.

Interesting and enjoyable.

4 stars

Review by Marian Kennedy

Inspired by masters of the twentieth-century, Olivier Award-winning choreographer Russell Maliphant brings to audiences a new production influenced by the works of Jackson Pollock and abstract expressionism. The 20th century American painter was famed for his drip technique.

With elements of nature pouring to the floor, and a large steel structure, Maliphant paints his own interpretation with movement, light, and shadow to create a visually rich journey, with the exceptional dancers of Russell Maliphant Dance Company (RMDC).


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