Hussein Chalayan – Gravity Fatigue review at Sadler’s Wells, London – ‘attention deficit disorder’
Dancemakers have long enjoyed a relationship with fashion designers. Karl Lagerfeld designed for the English National Ballet’s Swan Lake, Valentino has dressed the New York City Ballet, Chanel designed for Ballets Russes and Christian Lacroix for Paris Opera Ballet.
Anglo/Turkish fashion designer Hussein Chalayan has assembled a series of sketches animated by Franco/Belgian choreographer Damien Jalet. An extension of his catwalk shows and short films, they combine video, animation, costumes and dance in something that resembles a cross between an MTV video and an art gallery installation. While many of the images thrown up are startling and even memorable, they each exist in isolation; there is no connective tissue to illustrate the meaning of the title or the alleged themes of ‘displacement’ and ‘migration’.
It begins promisingly with two figures inside a white stretchy sack weaving around while being splattered with sudden bursts of projections – digital ectoplasm. A revolving circle of light around which dancers roll like the hands of a clock trying to escape is a classic example of Jalet’s centrifugal movement.
There are amusing face-offs such as the changing room sexting sequence and a long dress that takes on a life of its own. The best sequence employs a floor in different textures and the cast acting as a human drum machine, bouncing up and down on a variety of surfaces. But the novelty runs dry before the end and the restless invention suggests a case of attention deficit disorder rather than an artist engaging with his material. In spite of the slick lighting design and a soundtrack that relies heavily on the regulation thump of Clubtronica, my overwhelming impression was of cartoon fabric with a mind of its own and clothes that don’t want to be taken off.