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  • Miles Hedley


Artists are drawn to the darker side of the human condition – for every enigmatic Mona Lisa smile or Ode To Joy there are any number of pietàs and requiems. Choreographer Rosie Kay has also explored the depths in such acclaimed shows as 5 Soldiers. But her latest creation, Fantasia, unapologetically, wittily and thrillingly celebrates the other extreme – beauty in all its exuberant glory.

At Laban theatre last week three of Kay’s dancers - Shanelle Clemenson, Harriet Ellis and Carina Howard - realised her life-affirming vision with brilliant contemporary dance rich in references to classical ballet and a stirring soundtrack full of Baroque delights with modernist highlights.

Fantasia is divided into three parts dedicated respectively to the sun, the moon and our home planet and confirms the great revelation propounded by Keats: Beauty is truth, truth beauty.

Each segment’s score, brought together by Annie Mahtani, not only featured Baroque giants like Bach and Vivaldi but also some breathtaking juxtapositions, such as putting a challenging experimental piano piece by György Kurtàg beside Beethoven’s gorgeous Moonlight Sonata – which was mischievously included in the sun section.

Clever juxtapositions appeared in the dancing, too – moves that began as homages to ballet quickly transformed into hiphop-style popping or disco booty-shaking. And there were other witty nods to ballet, not least in costume designer Louis Price’s dazzling African-fabric tutus.

The performers were simply terrific, whether they were dancing solo or in unison, and they perfectly captured the sense of joy and beauty that Kay had refined in her choreography through a combination of her own remarkable creativity and her extensive research into the realms of art, philosophy and even neuroscientific studies investigating the way our bodies responds to music.

I defy anyone to leave a performance of Fantasia feeling anything but uplifted. In fact, I’d go further and declare it’s one of the most transcendently ebullient and optimistic shows I’ve seen.

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