Print Room at the Coronet – 1898 Dance Festival
Hubert Essakow: Adieu
Kirill Burlov: Absinthe
Tamarin Stott: Scene to be Seen
Mbulelo Ndabeni: Beholder of Beauty
London, Print Room at the Coronet
28 February 2015
Interview with Hubert Essakow about 1898 programme
One of the great recent dance venue finds was the Print Room in Westbourne Grove, West London. About 100 seats and commonly configured in the round so you felt incredibly close to the action. It has never presented lots of dance but what it has done has been quality contemporary work, and Hubert Essakow, as Artistic Associate, has often shown pieces there to great advantage. Things move on and the Print Room has moved a mile down the road to take over the disused Coronet cinema. Goodness knows if the larger building will be so magical but while they restore the auditorium the stage is currently configured as a 60 – 100 seat theatrical space and it works jolly well.
To celebrate the move Essakow was asked to put on a mini-festival of dance – which effectively was a quad bill repeated over a week and using himself and 3 other choreographers under the banner ‘1898’ – the year the Coronet was built. The result is a quartet of fifteen-minute pieces tagged ‘work in progress’ and which Anda Winters, the Print Room artistic director, says they look to carry on developing. I hope this comes off; it will be an interesting exercise to track.
Hubert Essakow’s Adieu opened proceedings and introduced us to the all-white performance cube, two sides open for us to view proceedings. The junctions of all the walls were rounded giving an all-enveloping feel and that played well in Adieu which looked at the similarities between the world of Sarah Bernhardt and the Belle Epoque etc and today. Naomi Sorkin, who was a soloist with ABT in the 1970’s, is the Bernhardt character that often walks dreamlike around the stage, with Cree Barnett Williams and David Ledger the current-day couple, she a particularly striking mover. Add in Debussy, Satie, some film projections and you have a good mix of characterful ingredients. But I’m not sure I could untangle all that might have been shown, though a lesbian kiss across the decades did mightily upset the David Ledger character who rampaged around the walls. But the best of the movement seemed to be for Barnett Williams and Ledger – clever holds, dramatic movement across the floor, but all seemingly so natural and with the flow of the body. Essakow makes complex multi-layered works and I hope to see more on its (changed?) next outing.
Tamarin Stott created Scene to be Seen on herself and fellow English National Ballet dancer, Nathan Young. They looked a million dollars and the complex movement and balances were pleasingly striking but trying to get a grip on what was going on was not so easy and the programme, while being clear that it was about the theatre experience past and present, offered so many jumping-off points it was overwhelming in a 15-minute piece.
Mbulelo Ndabeni’s Beholder of Beauty really intrigued at first – he came out dressed and made up as a geisha, the inspiration being that the first opera performed at the Coronet was ‘The Geisha’. Seen close to, in all-white makeup and bright red kimono-inspired costume he looked amazing and moved with deliberate precision. Terrific. Then the piece seems to lose its way with a modern-day Miss coming to dominate the stage and a video projection of a growing plant and its speeded-up wavering as it followed the sun. The simple theatre of the geisha seemed to be replaced by some more complex message, less clearly articulated and understood.
The undoubted hit of the bill was Kirill Burlov’s Absinthe and it succeeded with dramatic simplicity. The drink of the dance’s title became popular in the 1890s and was infamous for triggering hallucinations. In reality this crystallised out into a taut duet between Burlov and Rob McNeill where they bickered, pushed each other, fought bitterly, rested a while and then repeated, all while dressed in what had been period formal dinner wear. It must have been exhausting to perform such full-on physical movement and we became exhausted too, wondering where it would end and how much more hammer they could each take. The 15 minutes zoomed by and this felt like a finished work.