Curated by Sadler’s Wells, Dance Sampled presents a selection of different dance styles, and the opportunity discover something new and exciting. From ballet to hip-hop, contemporary to tango, the diversity of dance on offer is stunning.
Prior to the performance, the Birmingham Hippodrome foyer is alive with action; free dance performances showcase the best of local talent. Cultures collide with two different stick dancing traditions – Javiant Patel Dance’s Dandiya Raas Indian folk dance and traditional English Morris dancing. A celebration of young dancers from the West Midlands includes an excerpt from Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Cinderella Dreams, a Kathak solo and powerful contemporary work from Adam Rutherford Youth Dance. The building reverberates with hip-hop beats from B-SIDE, Break Mission and Shireland Academy B-Boys.
Dance Sampled opens with an extract from #JeSuis by Aakash Odedra Company. Inspired by South Asian classical dance, contemporary dance and cross-cultural collaboration, #JeSuis explores the refugee crisis and changing public perception towards asylum seekers. Dancers emerge from clingfilm wraps, which litter the stage throughout the performance. With heavy movements and grasping gestures, the dancers struggle to break a repetitive cycle, yet some invisible force weighs heavy on their movements, suffocating them and dragging them ever downwards.
The mood lightens with the Phantom pas de deux from Jessica Lang’s Lyric Pieces, performed by Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Brandon Lawrence and Jenna Roberts. This emotionally engaging piece is beautifully performed, combining the technique of classical ballet with more organic movements which evoke a very romantic mood.
An all too fleeting performance from Richard Alston Dance Company is an exhilarating and energising rush of colour. Revived for the first time in a decade, Gypsy Mixture provides a 21st-century take on traditional Balkan folk dance. Watching this extract from the wings, it is fantastic to see the dancers’ evident love for this piece; bouncing along and performing the joyful choreography before they even take to the stage.
Acosta Danza perform Derrumbe – an emotionally charged contemporary duet. Miguel Altunga’s choreography pushes the dancers to extremes, with headstands, hyper-extended legs and athletic lifts. The extraordinary technique of the two dancers which draws rapturous applause. Switching from gorgeous fluidity to crystal clear isolations, the two dancers convey the love and frustration of a dying relationship.
Connor Scott, winner of BBC Young Dancer 2015, gives the performance of the evening in his new piece White Water. Performed to jazz music, this solo explores loneliness, nostalgia and joy. Scott’s movement is completely captivating. Like quicksilver, he ripples across the stage in a continuous rolling sequence. He is appears to puppeteer his own limbs, threading his body into impossibly contorted positions. It is incredibly inspiring to see this teenager creating such a distinctive choreographic voice – an exciting prospect for British contemporary dance.
Two clever duets from Julia Urruty and Claudio Gonzalez bring an unexpected element of theatricality to traditional tango. Their first piece, reclaiming our physical differences and showing that everyone can dance, reveals two eccentric characters in exaggerated fat suits who perform a bombastic tango duet (with a few comedic pauses to catch their breath). Contrastingly, the couple’s second duet is a romantic Argentinian tango, imbued with a soft lyricism rarely seen in Latin dance.
Dance Sampled is brought to a close by the Iron Skulls Crew. This example of hip-hop dance theatre takes over the auditorium, with dancers performing amongst the audience. Sinestesia captures the imagination, with a combination of breaking, gymnastic and animalistic moves that create a new dance language. However, the most powerful part of the Iron Skulls’ performance is the curtain call, where the b-boys (and one girl) remove their masks and compete in an energetic dance battle.
Dance Sampled is an incredible evening which showcases the diversity and passion of the UK and international dance scene. The communicative power of dance is at the forefront; all barriers are stripped away, leaving us free to enjoy the athleticism of the human body and interpret the choreography as we please. It also speaks volumes for the Birmingham audiences, reacting warmly and energetically to every dance style, from Latin to hip-hop and everything in between.
Dance Sampled is at Birmingham Hippodrome until Saturday 4 March and tickets can be found here.