This is an explosive piece with a slow burn. Initially strewn in recognisable folk-dance steps – pounding heel-toe action – the last third builds to a thrilling conclusion involving all eight dancers in breath-taking, stunning athleticism. This is a decidedly male affair: tribal, ritualistic, supporting a sacrum-sensuality as performers welcome, celebrate or confront in an exploration which goes beyond strutting machismo. The piece is hypnotic and strangely compelling. Drummers – Didier Ambact and King Q4 – draw the dancers on to ever more complex rhythms and patterns.
French-born choreographer and visual artist Christian Rizzo’s conception stems from a memory of a Turkish folk dance performance at a festival in Istanbul, 2004. ‘A group of men erupt on stage, break out into a very short folk dance and then immediately disappear.’ ‘Was it their dance or the void they left after disappearing that overwhelmed me?’ asks Rizzo. While the sum of the parts do not necessarily make up the whole, d’apres une histoire vraie, is strangely compelling as Rizzo explores how dance can unite people across figurative and literal divides; arms embracing, praising, in a show of masculine strength.
There are discernible sections of movement with broad-sweep labels such as ‘the laying down’ or ‘counter-balance,’ danced in silence or to the accompaniment of drums and percussion; at one point the replicated sound of water. Sometimes it feels we are at a rock concert, head banging to the propulsive sound as dancers work in isolation or pairs to suggest multiple, private worlds. Yet this is the best of raves. There are also moments of great delicacy using lifts and the careful placing of dancers, flexed-foot, which are dazzling, producing a living sculptural beauty enriched by the all-male focus.
There is a difficulty in some sections, though, where hypnotic sensual movement, such as the dancers’ undulating torsos, seems over-extended and repetitive. But the collaboration and commitment is first rate. The dancers are an eclectic bunch: sinewy elegance, strength, matched by a denim trail with long hair and beards stretching all the way back to the early 70s. The dual drum kits dominate the stage, while the drummers’ highly physical performance matches the dancers’ in energy. Lit by the half-grained, atmospheric lighting design of Caty Olive, hinting at the memory-play central to Rizzo’s exploration, it is a poignant reminder that in the week following the Paris atrocities, France, Turkey, Dance and Heavy Metal can, and do, share a harmonious place.