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ASEJU (Excess)

Sakoba Dance Theatre
Theatre Royal, Winchester, and touring
(2005)

Sakoba Dance Theatre, a very physical expression of African dance that over the past ten years has developed a strong base in the North East, is on the move.

At Winchester's Theatre Royal this week they impressed a small but curious audience, including many 'teenage students with dance on the syllabus, with their own vigorous expression of global contemporary society.

Their stock in trade is the dance education workshop and their entry into the arena of performance brings with it many of the features of their educational format.

ASEJU (Excess), a passionate piece of theatre devised by their charismatic leader Bode Lawal, is a very physical pastiche of multi-cultural human emotion. If that sounds ambitious - even a tad pretentious, then so be it! The sixty minute piece takes the onlooker around d the world to encounter everyday human emotions of anger, frustration, jealousy and revenge.

It's a tall order. And however productive in terms of stretching the young dancer's imagination and ability in the workshop, when it comes to the public stage the verdict has to be as harsh as the expectations. The fact that many of the scenes have to be explained with a vocalised label literally speaks for itself.

In short, ASEJU lacks a clear narrative thread of the kind that, for example, transforms the classical ballet from mere peacock display to shared experience. One marvels at the handsome physiques and discipline of the dancers - and sometimes their actions are, as required, sexually explicit.

One also thrills at the versatility of the on-stage trio of percussionists, predominately drums . Yet if Sakoba are to fulfil their stated objective of winning a global audience for performance dance, their sights must rise far above the level of the studio and the barre.

Reviewer: Kevin Catchpole