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Of Light, Silence & Stillness | Russell Maliphant Company at the Joyce, Dec. 10-14, 2014….

January 4, 2015
Dickson Mbi of the Russell Maliphant Company ©Warren Du Preez & Nick Thornton Jones

Dickson Mbi of the Russell Maliphant Company. Photo: ©Warren Du Preez & Nick Thornton Jones

Russell Maliphant is an artist of great courage, of bravery, someone unafraid to take chances and this was evident during the Russell Maliphant Company’s engagement at the Joyce Theater, Dec. 10-14, 2014. As a choreographer he challenges the very concept of how we perceive the body in space and the relationship it has with its environment. The evening’s program, entitled Still Current, was a collection of five dances, all solos or duets.

Mr. Maliphant, who made his Joyce debut in 2012 with The Rodin Project, has collaborated closely with lighting designer and Sadler’s Wells Associate Artist, Michael Hulls, since 1994… Mr. Hull received the Outstanding Achievement in Dance award at the 2014 Olivier Awards…They have created a symbiotic relationship, a shared vision of merging light and movement into a new language. A new way of viewing the body in space where light becomes as tangible as the dancer, where the two become intertwined into a singular statement.

Mr. Maliphant is not afraid of stillness. He creates exquisite moments in the dance, for one brief moment, time is suspended. Everything stops, then like a heartbeat; the kinetic energies began to flow thought the dancer’s body.Two premiered in 1997 and was inspired by Maurice Béjart’s Bolero. The work is essential a duet between light and the dancer. The sole feminine presence in the company, Carys Staton, stands alone in a thin cone of shaded light with one arm raised above her head, she appears more sculpture then person.

Mr. Maliphant’s ability to marry silence and stillness makes Two alive, vibrant; you forget that there is only one person on stage. You become entranced by how light creates valleys of shadow with the body’s anatomy. The elbow becomes a peak of luminance surrounded briefly by dusk. As the arm continues to move you discover another pocket of shadow, unnoticed before but now so very important to the overall. The total effect is startling.

Carys Staton in Russell Maliphant’s “Two”. Photo: ©Hugo Glendinning

Carys Staton in Russell Maliphant’s “Two”. Photo: ©Hugo Glendinning

The Russell Maliphant Company is small with only four dancers, three men, Thomasin Gülgeç, Dickson Mbi, Adam Kirkham (who also dance with Balletboyz) and Carys Staton as the lone woman. Mr. Maliphant also dances in the company but due to an injury was unable to perform.

Still, making its United States premier, was danced by Ms. Stanton and Dickson Mbi. Mr. Mbi, famed for his strength and incredible popping style, began the piece solo. His movements filled with a primal passion as Mr. Hulls’ lighting design teasingly rippled across his bare torso.

Thomasin Gülgeç in Russell Maliphant’s “Afterlight”. Photo: ©Hugo Glendinning

Thomasin Gülgeç in Russell Maliphant’s “Afterlight”. Photo: ©Hugo Glendinning

The drums in the score enhanced this feeling of primal passion. At one point Mr. Mbi is joined by Ms. Stanton. Their relationship to each other is both dependent and independent. Ms. Stanton joins in movement with Mr. Mbi then breaks away.  She is being quietly deviant, a declaration of her own fearlessness.

The second half of the program opened with a solo for Thomasin Gülgeç entitled Afterlight (Part One) and set to Erik Sati’s haunting Gnosiennes 1-4 and new compositions by Andy Cowton. Mr. Gülgeç moves with a quiet majesty, his body folding and rolling with the music. As a phrase of music slows to a moment of stillness, his arm sweeps gentle from his side to punctuate the moment.

The work was created for Sadler’s Wells’ In The Spirit of Diaghilev and inspired by photographs of Vaslav Nijinsky and his geometric drawings. Mr. Gülgeç circles and creates arcs of movement about the stage; his body seems to flow with the score. His arms possess a fragility as he moves them almost birdlike. It was an inspired performance of a Russell Maliphant’s Olivier nominated work from 2009.

Russell Maliphant is an artist to watch. With The Rodin Project, performed at the Joyce in 2012 and now with this program, Still Current, you are able to witness the brooding genius of a choreographer who speaks with his own voice.

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