The high star rating is for Wang and Ramirez and their video collaborator, Nick Hillel, who together make a wonderful trio of talent.
The “music” of the show, unfortunately, is merely a promotion of the eponymous, regrettably patchy, 2015 album by Nitin Sawhney. We are invited to plod through the whole auditory thing. Plenty chronology. Not enough choreography. What we really want is to see Wang and Ramirez, famous for their unique urban dance language,set free to fly. But their wings are clipped by their obligation to big up the music. Now and then we catch glimpses of their gifts, even literally, since one of their strengths is aerial work, this time with expert rigger Jason Oettlé.
Ramirez and Wang were trussed thus: in his capacity as Associate Artist, three years ago Sawhney approached Sadler’s Wells about “turning the album (Dystopian Dream) into a show”. Sadly, Sadler’s Wells agreed. Did they know that he meant it literally, track by track? The outcome puts constraints upon the creative freedom of the dancer-choreographer team. The “album” comes to us as a sound recording, but worse, with token chanteuse Eva Stone supposedly live on stage. Unfortunately, she is “live” in the way that a block of wood is alive, though, all credit to her for the risk she takes, she is not, after all, a professional dancer. She is miked for this hybrid role. In the audience there was much speculation about whether the mike is decorative, with praise due to Stone for her miming, or, my own surmise, for her sotto voce un-plugged-in syncing along to the album’s vocals.
Meanwhile, there’s Sawhney with top billing. Sorry. There is physical pain in having to witness the gorgeous Wang and Ramirez toil to persuade us that the fifth wheel is a third performer. At last, at the bitter end, the poor girl, who probably also couldn’t say no to Sawhney or his producer, was cranked up to a wired heaven which would have been heavenly had it not been so late a-coming. Dystopian? Too right.