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  • Miles Hedley

FIRE BIRD at The Yard

Fire bird, a new work by Julie Cunningham, is quite simply electrifying. It not only blazes a trail for contemporary dance while acknowledging the artform’s balletic back-story but it is also deeply personal, revealing and revelling in the ever-changing and contradictory nature of a great performer and choreographer.

Using Stravinsky’s pioneering 1910 masterpiece as both inspiration and score, Cunningham has created a brilliant modern take on the work but also pays tribute to the astonishing decade that spawned it by including a replica of Malevich’s revolutionary Black Square and a filmic – and very funny - nod to the Dadaist taste for ridicule and gobbledegook.

The dance itself combines the vocabulary of the classical and the contemporary as Cunningham weaves between taut cords strung across the stage like lines in an abstract painting, sometimes glorying in the beauty of the movements, sometimes stumbling and uncertain. Such contradictions make the piece feel rooted in reality while also giving it a concrete sense of integrity and humanity.

Contrasts between old and new, positive and negative, darkness and light always flirt with disaster. But Cunningham’s skill and amazing stage presence ensure this tension is never less than uplifting and also offers insights into the nature of creativity and, indeed, the human condition.

The performance I saw at The Yard in east London was the premiere of fire bird and it was greeted with a huge ovation. Never has one been so richly deserved.


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