Gelabert Azzopardi Companyia de Dansa
This article is from 2009.
Catalan choreographer, Cesc Gelabert is back at the Edinburgh International Festival after a five-year absence. He’s been missed, and the two new works he delivers in this double-bill show exactly why.
These are works of total theatre, where music, dance and visual effect pull together seamlessly into something much more substantial than mere spectacle. Gelabert is unusual amongst contemporary choreographers in that he appears in his own works. He opens the evening in Sense Fi as a kind of puppet master figure, pirouetting on his own, plucking dancers from shadows and compelling them to follow his moves. They pick up on the motions he sets for them, but as an ensemble they are, deliberately, never exactly together. The individualism of each dancer within the ensemble is always central.
Sense Fi seems to happen over the long drunken course of a night roaming around Barcelona’s shadowy backstreets. Gelabert, a stark lonely figure, inveigles himself into the stories of the young, beautiful revellers he encounters and pulls them temporarily to his will, but always ends up back on the periphery. Sense Fi is modern ballet, for the most part, danced sensually around the tangles of Pascal Comelade’s deliberately jarring score. Onstage, pulling the strings, Gelabert compels his dancers to take risks with the form, to tease every last raw morsel of sexuality out of an arabesque, say, so that the movement becomes a woman’s languid, seamy come-on.
Classical ballet moves are juxtaposed with rave whistles and broken up as a pack of young men turn feral and cavort under a gigantic moon. If at times there’s a feeling that the dancers are holding back a little in Sense Fi, it’s clear by even the first movement of Conquassabit that they were keeping their powder dry out of necessity.
Where Sense Fi inverts classical movement against an all too contemporary soundtrack, Conquassabit liberates Handel’s vocal and instrumental music from the hermetically sealed reverence within which we usually experience classical music. The contemporary dance of tumbling, rolling, perpetual motion Gelabert, beating time with a bejewelled stick, sets running in his dancers, who react to every nuance of the music. It allows us to consider the composer’s wild flicks and caprices of tempo as they’re matched with a beat-perfect ball-change or whipped out limb, or to find sex in the limpid grace of a soprano’s solo.
This is also a visually stunning work, the stage decorated only with a huge silver cloth which balloons, billows and folds to meet the grandeur and scale of the music. Total theatre: the most perfect, complete realisation of a piece of music possible. By the breathless, exhilarating climax, the audience are left laughing out loud with sheer joy.
Edinburgh Festival Theatre, 473 2000, until Sunday 22 Aug, 8pm, £10-£28.