Amici Dance Theatre Company – Tightrope – London

Amici Dance Theatre Company in <I>Tightrope</I>.<br />© Sheila Burnett. (Click image for larger version)

Amici Dance Theatre Company in Tightrope.
© Sheila Burnett. (Click image for larger version)

Amici Dance Theatre Company
Tightrope

★★★★✰
London, Lyric Hammersmith
27 May 2017
www.amicidance.org
www.lyric.co.uk

While Liverpool is celebrating the 50th anniversary of Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Amici Dance Theatre Company has revived its 30th anniversary show, Tightrope – almost a ringer for the Beatles’ circus tribute on the album, Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite. William Kite was a Victorian tightrope walker (amongst other skills); Amici’s equivalent is David Grindley, a wheelchair user who can’t walk but who can fly from a wire.
 

Amici Dance Theatre Company in Tightrope.© Sheila Burnett. (Click image for larger version)

Amici Dance Theatre Company in Tightrope.
© Sheila Burnett. (Click image for larger version)

Wolfgang Stange founded Amici in 1980 as an integrated company of disabled and able-bodied performers. (He soon stopped using ‘integrated’ in its title, since his theatrical productions had no need of any qualification.) Tightrope presents its 40-plus members as intrepid but not always successful circus entertainers. ‘We abandon no-one’ announces the Ringmistress, Rosie Leak – even though the knife-thrower is partially sighted and the mind-reader can’t guess a thing.

What matters is that ‘A splendid time is guaranteed for all’, in the words of Mr Kite’s benefit song. Each act is presented with panache, accompanied by stirring music. Professional musicians and singers sit high above the gallimaufry below until they choose to join in the fun. Nao Masuda, composer, plays an astonishing array of instruments, including a harmonica, accordion, thumb piano and percussion. Jenny Adejayan is a renowned cellist, while opera singer Wendy Grose, striving to shatter glass with her top notes, is a seasoned artiste.
 

Amici Dance Theatre Company in Tightrope.© Sheila Burnett. (Click image for larger version)

Amici Dance Theatre Company in Tightrope.
© Sheila Burnett. (Click image for larger version)

In between the comically incompetent turns – strongmen who can’t lift, a snake charmer who cheats – come poignant dance numbers.  A bevy of translucent umbrellas disguise Grindley’s ascent until he dangles, free from gravity, before returning to his chair.  Two wheelchair users circle round each other in a duet of compassionate fellow feeling. A powerful man, Alex Harvey (from Ockham’s Razor performance group) joins in to raise dancer Suzie Birchwood from her chair high above his head for a triumphant Pyramide d’amour.
 

Amici Dance Theatre Company in Tightrope.© Sheila Burnett. (Click image for larger version)

Amici Dance Theatre Company in Tightrope.
© Sheila Burnett. (Click image for larger version)

Near the finale, he and she link together as daring aerialists – skills learnt from the National Centre for Circus Arts. Everyone’s heart is in their mouth as Birchwood, plunging downward, is caught by Harvey’s feet at the last minute. Amici rightly prides itself on taking risks. The entire cast gather round for the last sequence, holding red balloons they release in an uplifting ballet. Their smiles of pride and pleasure are reflected in the enthusiastic audience response. Stange’s productions are a form of magic, uniting performers and spectators through a spell that makes light of the hard work behind each performance.
 
 

About author
Work for DanceTabs
Reviews on Balletco

A long-established dance writer, Jann Parry was dance critic for The Observer from 1983 to 2004 and wrote the award-winning biography of choreographer Kenneth MacMillan: 'Different Drummer', Faber and Faber, 2009. She has written for publications including The Spectator, The Listener, About the House (Royal Opera House magazine), Dance Now, Dance Magazine (USA), Stage Bill (USA) and Dancing Times. As a writer/producer she worked for the BBC World Service from 1970 to 1989, covering current affairs and the arts. As well as producing radio programmes she has contributed to television and radio documentaries about dance and dancers.

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