Dance

Lucinda Childs Dance Company
Dance Umbrella 2011
Barbican Theatre
(2011)

Dance production photo

Stones skimming across a lake, dancers, arms tasselling, lifting in flight, creating momentum for body and feet, leap, turn, bourrée step, skip, tilt, and flit across the stage in incessant dance. For a whole hour in three twenty-minute chapters, beauty and grace crest on Philip Glass's ecstatic propulsive music.

Lucinda Childs's 1979 signature piece, Dance, is recreated in all its minimalist conceptual 'spatial exploration' glory. Merce Cunningham is there, but so is Erick Hawkins in those tension-free moves that create that seemingly effortless ballon in her eleven dancers.

Sol LeWitt's original black and white film projection on the front gauze, in double tier, split screen, above, alongside, in close-up, and freeze-frame, casts larger than life shadows over the dwarfed dancers on stage, thirty-two years separating the parallel visions, ethereal spectres and warm solid three-dimensional bodies. Perspective is shifted, and shifting throughout. In the original, the dancers were dancing with themselves, of course.

LeWitt's 35mm film, demonstrating how dance can work on celluloid, how film can be set décor, makes one look all the more intensely at the performers on stage. All in white - white trousers over white leotards, men and women no differentiation, and white jazz shoes - in the film they wear slightly heavier white tennis shoes. Makes a difference.

Little details jump out - the placement of feet, the blurring of speed, the neatness of bodies. Poetic precision, mathematical increment, accumulation of experience in refined repetition to Glass's persistent music that lifts the dance and the spirit.

In the middle solo section Caitlin Scranton duets with Lucinda Childs herself - it is the history one wants to see, inevitably. But Scranton is her reincarnation. A held moment of stillness, again one observes the body, its artistry, its pose, its repose. Then off, fleet-footed in controlled, programmed dance.

The music becomes more demanding, the stage fills with dancers in swift diagonal square dance interchanges, patterns on a grid, past and present separate, corporeal vibrancy sweeping the ghosts away. It is the reality on the stage, bathed in Beverley Emmons's lighting, that finally captures our roving eyes.

Fortunate to have seen this remount by a new company of dancers under Childs's direction, a restoration of LeWitt's film and Glass's original score, a rarely performed piece of dance history brought to vivid life. There is more Childs to come - next year - a reconstruction of Einstein on the Beach, An Opera in Four Acts as part of the London 2012 Festival.

Originally created in 1976 by Robert Wilson and Philip Glass with choreography by Lucinda Childs, a must-see legendary work, it will be at the Barbican from 4th to13th May 2012. A date for your diaries. Lucinda Childs, who joined the renowned Judson Dance Theater in New York in 1963, is having a rebirth. In fact she has never stopped working

Till 22nd October 2011

Reviewer: Vera Liber