Sadler's Wells offered four choreographers, Wayne McGregor, Russell Maliphant, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Javier de Frutos, the challenge Diaghilev offered choreographers: 'Surprise me!' Four short works resulted, four world premieres in an evening.
The one that remains vividly in mind is Russell Maliphant's AfterLight, suggested by the geometric drawings of Nijinsky. The sparseness of it focused attention totally on the one dancer. Casually dressed, he stretches and turns within a pool of flickering light. There's nothing to distract from the dance; there's just music, light and a moving body. It was extraordinary.
Sidi Larbi used two dancers and a painted backdrop, a dance suggesting the discovery of eroticism, and its intoxication. I wonder if a dance performance isn't something of a ritual; we gather for a journey out of verbal reality. A dance is a dance, but when it tries to tell a story, when the stage setting tries to describe a place, there's too much superfluous information and something doesn't quite work. It becomes more of an entertainment, the focus is lost.
Judith Mackerell's review is here. And here there is an article about research by cognitive scientists into dance, how it is created, developed, remembered, with dancer and choreographer Wayne McGregor and his company. & here is a short video about that research taking place during creative rehearsals. Not like any dance class I've been to.
PS. It was on my mind while writing this that it was an all-male list of choreographers, and yet I've seen exciting work from female choreographers: Cathy Marston, Siobhan Davies and Shobana Jeyasingh to name contemporary women just in the UK. Diaghilev himself encouraged and commissioned Bronislava Nijinska, Nijinsky's sister. Then I saw an article reporting on a recent symposium on the low visibility of female choreographers.
My guess is that the four males have a higher box office appeal and they have international reputations. Not that their work is necessarily any more interesting.