Slow Dancing is extraordinary. Slow motion can be very beautiful anyway, but to get a cast of dancers and choreographers like this – they include Trisha Brown, Karole Armitage, Dana Casperson, William Forsythe, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Angelin Preljocaj – in front of a very slow motion HD camera is incredible. The list also includes dancers world-wide: American Indian, Flamenco, Samoan, Capoeira, Balinese, Indian...
Five seconds of dance results in ten minutes of incredibly smooth slow dancing. Expanding time like this removes any sense of narrative or sequence. It's more like a moving photograph than a film. In film or on stage we clearly see a dancer preparing to leap. But in hyper-slow motion this sequence is so attenuated that cause and effect aren't clear, and the dancer simply seems to rise up. & these leaps are extraordinary because we see the body change shape, as the ankles start to hang from the legs, the legs from the hips and the hips from the torso; and when the body lands it visibly crumples, like an inhalation and exhalation. There's no horizontal line, no horizon to suggest ground level, just brightly-lit dancers surrounded by darkness, and the only indication of leaping is this change of body shape. & some of the leaps just go up and up. There's a strange feeling of weightlessness, and of effortlessness. Perhaps this is what dancing feels like at its best.
The more traditional dances are quieter in gesture and movement, so ballet and contemporary come out well, as does flamenco, every moment of which looks amazing. But the faces of all the dancers took my attention. For a few there was an exalting joy in movement, but most faces were inward looking, mask-like, as if absorbed entirely in the dance. Photographer David Michalek, whose project this is, takes the concept of portraiture as a starting point.
Of many very beautiful performances one of the most extraordinary was dancer Alexandra Beller, who by most standards would be regarded as over-weight, but who makes an amazing turning leap that comes down to earth and then down to the floor, where her body subsides, her hair and clothing settling slowly around her. It's an astonishing image of aspiration and matter.
& unfortunately it finishes today, July 24, at 6pm. But if you're anywhere near east London, it's at the Village Underground in Holywell Lane, which is just up the road from Liverpool Street. (You might have passed by and seen underground carriages up on the roof.) It's free, just walk in, be given a programme, and settle down on cushions and beanbags on the floor, and be entranced. Many thanks to Sadler's Wells for giving it to us.