In a waterlogged winter, The Print Room performance space in Notting Hill offers an exhilarating soaking for dancers and spectators alike. Hubert Essakow (ex-Royal Ballet and Rambert Dance Company) was commissioned to create a waterwork in collaboration with designer Tom Dixon and composer Peter Gregson – an ambitious undertaking in a confined area.
The audience sits along all four walls, protecting themselves with black plastic ponchos. In the centre, an impressive lighting rig hangs over a boxed-in square. A suspended column of gauze, opaque then transparent, resembles an elongated ice cube. Within it, Thomasin Gülgeç seems deep frozen until he carves his way out with a light sabre. Others join him as ice turns to misty vapour – Sonya Cullingford, Simone Muller Lotz, Daniel Hay-Gordon and Kieran Stonely.
Movement starts very simply, a twist of a wrist expanding to a gyrating torso; ripples pass from one body to another in canon and counterpoint. The ebb and flow of non-verbal ideas doesn’t really need the slogans about water projected onto the elevated cube. It’s evident from audience laughter who is reading the Jenny Holzer-like cryptic text and who prefers to watch the dancers beneath. The performers speak their own contributions and a recorded compendium of clichés about water, compiled by Richard Thomas, makes this a multi-media collaboration – which is what The Print Room’s new artistic director, Anda Winters, commisioned.
Flow – Behind the scenes
Gregson’s pulsating score brews up a storm, galvanising Gülgeç and Cullingford into a duet of grasping, needy embraces. Water falling from above comes as a tropical release rather than a depressing British Isles downpour. All five dancers skid, skate, flail and tumble, spraying bin-lined spectators with flying droplets. Even more water trickles into the dance pit, reflecting damp bodies lying prone in the semi-darkness. Great credit for the atmospheric effects must go to the ‘waterist’, Mario Borza, and lighting designer Matthew Eagland.
At the end, the dancers slowly stand upright and file solemnly out. We evolved from water, and water, more than dust, is what we are made of.
The 55 minutes pass swiftly, relieved by humour and the constantly changing dynamics of the dance. Essakow has continued to evolve as a choreographer, thanks to his association with The Print Room. Its high standards of presentation attract first-rate collaborators and performers, and by including spoken and projected words, Flow attracts non-dance-specialist audiences. As Pina Bausch has so frequently demonstrated, the visceral pleasure of watching agile dancers abandon themselves to water is irresistible – though we don’t often get to share their wetness in such close proximity.