The Four Seasons

Choreography and performance: James Wilton and Sarah Jane Taylor
James Wilton Dance
The Drum, Theatre Royal Plymouth

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The Four Seasons
The Four Seasons
The Four Seasons

My first encounter with Cornwall's James Wilton Dance and it is easy to see what all the fuss is about. Innovative and mesmerising.

Vivaldi’s Four Seasons is recomposed by Max Richter with extensions by Michal Wojtas leaving only whispers of the original as Wilton’s choreography redefines the seasons as stages of the universe’s genesis and decline: "The Singularity", "The Expanding Universe", "The Cooling Universe" and "Entropic Heat Death".

I’m not sure I really got each of the stages but I’m also not so sure it matters in 55 minutes of tremendous physicality.

Birdsong and intermittent darkness and light introduces Sarah Jane Taylor as a tan-clad foetal being, closer each new dawn, emerging from the beige-washed stage to stretch and contort (and caterpillar) morphing into a human under a lowering white orb, exploring her limbs and movement until joined by James Wilton.

The duo’s pas de deux is intense and athletic, reflective and joyous by turns with precise synchronisation and interesting separation. There are shades of ballet, circus, contemporary dance and martial arts harnessed to near-perfection.

More birdsong and the orb swings with white light throwing shadows onto Vibeke Andersen's bare set, with just the gold silk pleated shimmering backdrop imbuing some warmth as spikey, explosive almost-gymnastic choreography gives way to a unique kaleidoscopic pairing showcasing intricate weaving arm movements. Hypnotic and strangely soporific.

As producer Paul Milford's lights glow with a reddish hue, Wilton jettisons his top and breaks the trance with his star-jumping prowess, handstands and tumbling solo setting a new powerful pace. Stunning lifts escalate as Taylor seems to roll up his body in a whirling showcase of agility and Cirque du Soleil-esque holds.

And the magic continues as, seemingly from nowhere, golden lights scatter the stage encircling an even smaller space. A now-white-clad Taylor contorts in a lithe solo and, with a handheld torch to highlight, intently flexes her extremities, writhing and reaching before a final fling with Wilton brings close-chain reflective peace and what seems to be stretching for the burning sun.

Whatever the narrative, worth an hour of anyone’s time.

Reviewer: Karen Bussell