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  • Miles Hedley

WHAT SONGS MAY DO… at Laban theatre

The ellipse in the title of Rendez-Vous Dance’s mesmerising What Songs May Do… suggests multiple possibilities. By implication, it also posits a supplementary notion: what dance may do. And the answer to both can be distilled into one word - everything.


More than any other artform, dance has the ability to bring together abstraction, beauty, poetry and physicality in a single performance and in the process seek answers to the most basic questions concerning what it means to be human and, crucially, how we interact with one another.


That ability to capture the quiddity of life and love was perfectly illustrated when Rendez-Vous brought What Songs May Do… to Laban theatre where dancers Oliver Chapman and Paolo Pisarra were irresistible as a couple trying to rediscover lost love, moving sinuously, sensuously and sporadically savagely in electrifying patterns choreographed by Mathieu Geffré.


The combination of Geffré, Chapman and Pisarra would have been enough on their own to make this work execeptional. What catapulted it to greatness, however, was the brilliantly inspired idea to set it to a soundtrack by legendary musician Nina Simone who was not only a glorious singer, pianist and writer but also knew more about the vicissitudes of love than most.


Watching Chapman and Pisarra uniting, separating and reuniting to the strains of Simone singing Jacques Brel’s heartbreaking Ne Me Quitte Pas, or Morris Albert’s Feelings, or her own Marry Me was to experience every nuance of the emotional ups and downs that make every relationship - good, bad or indifferent - so uniquely fascinating.


And the sense of being intimately involved in this couple’s life together and apart was given further poignancy by the fabulously simple lighting design of Rachel Shipp whose use of pools of whiteness amid darkness and haze underscored the transitory, unpredictable, flickering nature of our interior and exterior lives.


What Songs May Do… was a beautiful reminder of the evocative and transformative power of music. It was also a beautiful illustration of how dance can cut so cleanly through surface gloss to explore the very heart of our being. I loved it.

Picture: Rhiannon Banks





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