The Storm

Choreography James Wilton
James Wilton Dance
The Place

The Storm by James Wilton Credit: Steve Tanner

James Wilton’s The Storm is about depression, the storm in the mind (scientific advisor Dr David Belin is credited), expressed via a ninety-minute display of hectic dance—a nervous symptom of the hurly-burly brain or a physical exorcism, a sweaty distraction from the inner life? Sometimes the idea (and programme notes) is more persuasive than its realisation however well performed.

Seven dancers, three lead and four as chorus, backdrop and context, cannot be faulted in their fluid delivery of electrifying acrobatics mightily influenced by break-dancing and martial arts, and the lifts and contact work are highly sophisticated, but the tossing and turning, rolling and roiling choreography is episodic and repetitive, a never-ending loop.

A whirlwind of dance, corkscrew twists, one-hand stands, all very street, high-energy leaps and delicate hand prompts, solos and duets, firing off each other, a foggy gloomy landscape (design Alan Dawson and James Wilton), sustained by doomy music from Amarok (Polish composer Michal Wojtas apparently inspired by Pink Floyd), electro-prog-rock with a hint of melancholy jazz.

The music, hypertensive blood pounding in the brain, is the bloodstream and the skeleton of the dance, and the best thing of the desolate evening for me.

The introspective Storm concentrates on a central trio of supportive friends, Norikazu Aoki (astounding), Ihsaan De Banya (of the Richard Alston Company since 2013) and Sarah Jane Taylor. She with her arm twitches and clenched fists seems the most troubled; Aoki the most physically agile; Ihsaan De Banya a comfort to them both. There’s an interesting moment when Aoki’s prostrate spread-eagled body is used for hopscotch practice by De Banya. What's that about? Healing?

The sprinting, torqueing, somersaulting and cartwheeling quartet—Manon Adrianow, Michael Kelland, apprentices Jacob Lang and Sean Monroe giving it their all—are the tumbleweed that blows across the stage behind and around them. Or are they the manifestation of the inner agitated demons of the trio’s minds?

The Storm opens with seven dancers lying on the floor, spokes in a wheel, arms fluttering like fronds above—a striking image, the calm before the storm or a therapy session? And ends with ticker tape falling, grey bits of paper that look like ash. Did the therapy not work—after such an exhausting physical workout?

I know despair can be like being on a merry-go-round and not seeing a way to get off, but this message, perhaps, would have greater punch in sixty minutes flat without interval. As it is the interval breaks the tension. The second half adds little to the first but more of the same.

Wilton is a superb choreographer, but less can be more. Exuberance is a fine thing—and this is a difficult thing to say—but one can overdose on it.

Reviewer: Vera Liber